I run daily, training in a suburban area with poor sidewalks. From time to time, I'll encounter a pedestrian going in the opposite direction. The sidewalk isn't quite wide enough for us both to pass, so one of us has to move to the side. I'm typically the one to do it; I'm moving faster, and so I'll spend less time in the street, near cars, than the other person. About half the time, the street is a busy one, and half the time, it's quiet. Additionally, if the other person is a dog-walker (or a parent with a stroller), they need a very wide berth, and shouldn't have to bring their pet/child onto the street.

Here's a typical diagram of the situation (green is a small grass strip, grey is the pavement, and black is part of the street; assume that all parts are flat):

Drawing of a pedestrian and a runner crossing each other

I have some friends (also runners) who disagree, stating that it there's no inherent reason for the runner to be the one to move, ignoring cases of dogs and strollers.

I'm wondering what the general etiquette is in the running community. Extenuating circumstances of some sort notwithstanding, in the case of a runner and a walker, is the runner expected to move onto the street unless the other pedestrian does otherwise?

  • 2
    Just FYI: There are many runners in The Great Outdoors, who could answer this better. :)
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:22
  • Also I just see limited relation to itnerpersonal skills this is more about etiquette of a specific group. While the reasons possibily are trackable down to interpersonal skills, this sin't even necceesarly the case.
    – dhein
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 7:18

8 Answers 8


You, the runner, should opt for the road, not the walker.

You're running; hence more alert, aware of your surroundings. The walking pedestrian may be daydreaming. Walkers might also have disabilities that you hadn't noticed.

You're fast moving; you'll clear off the road much sooner than them.

You're the one disrupting their peaceful stroll, unless the track was meant for runners.

Plus, a good idea is to announce your presence, "I'm coming up on your right" as per your sketch.

It's even better to just slow down and walk past them.

Roads are not safe for running, unless it's a scarcely populated town and cars passing through that road are slow and rare.

I don't run too often, but on occasions that I did face similar scenarios, I'm usually the one stepping onto the road. I'm an Indian, but currently in the UAE.

  • 3
    I would become somewhat apprehensive if a stranger ran towards me and stopped to walk close. Combined with a greeting I would perhaps stop and expect to chat as the walker, which would really break my flow as a jogger. Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 17:30
  • 1
    @notstoreboughtdirt it's a narrow walkway. I'd understand why a runner would slow down there. If it's a wide walkway, I'd agree with you.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 17:32
  • "Roads are not safe for running." that may be the case in the UAE, but it most likely isn't the case in HDE's suburban town.
    – user288
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 17:52
  • 4
    IMHO safety, of both people, is the paramount concern in such a situation. Thus +1 for just slow down. Might be "inconvenient" to you running but it's better than being squashed by inattentive and unnoticed driver (which even low population areas have) approaching from the rear or the walker feeling the need to move to a similarly unsafe position.
    – Toby
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 13:22
  • 1
    @HDE 226868 Although you may not be more alert, there's a pretty decent chance you're more agile. Walkers might not only not be as fit, but also might have disabilities that you hadn't noticed.
    – Jessica M
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 13:55

I'm a runner in the US. In general, I try to be convenient for others. If it's safe for me to run out on the street to pass someone, and if that means that the other person doesn't have to disrupt their walk, I do that. It's just about making life easier for others.

Of course, I've had pedestrians who, when they see me, move over and let me pass. They're also trying to be polite.

This isn't necessarily about you being a runner. This is just about whether you want to have an attitude where you want to be as considerate as possible.

Of course, this is assuming that it's safe to run on the road. If I'm running in the same direction as the traffic, I'll look behind me to make sure that there aren't any cars coming.

If there is a situation where you need to pass someone and running on the street isn't an option -- say you're running on a narrow trail with trees on both sides -- you first need to communicate to the pedestrian that you need to pass them. Loudly use the phrase "on your left" or "on your right" depending on which side you need to pass them on. In my experience, if you do that, the pedestrian will hear you and know what side you need to pass them on. I've found that pedestrians are usually considerate about this. They don't want to feel like they're slowing you down.

If you don't clearly communicate -- say if you run behind the pedestrian in the hopes that they'll notice them -- I've found that pedestrians tend to get upset. People don't like being surprised like this. Think about it: you would feel weird if someone you didn't know was following directly behind you. And if that person was clearly faster than you were, you would feel rushed as well.

  • I do trail running a lot, and I definitely agree with the fourth paragraph (and the rest of the answer, for what it's worth - it matches my experiences).
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 20:37

"How would I like it?" is always a good first question. If you are walking on the sidewalk, and a runner comes up, do you step aside, or do you expect the runner to do that? I expect you'll find it natural to expect the runner to step aside, as will your friends.

If both of you were simply walking, you would have little difficulty in avoiding each other while staying on the sidewalk. You'd have plenty of time, easy communication, all that. When you run, you make the situation more complicated, and usually common courtesy would dictate you're the one to take the burden, unless there's a good enough reason not to (e.g. being in a wheel chair). Either step aside, or stop running until you get clear.

I expect there may be plenty of cultural differences (I'm European), so the first paragraph is probably more important than the second :)


I have this a lot when biking. My rule of thumb is "the one who does the action is the one for whom the action is easiest". This is, of course, open to interpretation, specific cases, the general culture of the participants, ...

  • pedestrian vs. biker: the biker moves, it is easier and quicker for him to change lanes
  • car vs. biker, someone has to stop: the car stops, it is easier for the car to move again than for the biker
  • car vs. biker, someone has to move: the biker moves, he is more agile
  • biker vs. dog on a retractable leash taking the whole road: the biker stops, punches the owner, resumes biking

I am from a small Midwest town. Here all etiquette in every situation where people are intersecting is you defer to the elderly & disabled, then pregnant women or parents with small children, strollers, etc. This would apply to any place you pass, such as aisles, doorways, sidewalks, etc. It's never spoken, but everyone has an understood way they operate that is apparent if you pay attention for a short bit in a place where people are moving around one another (such as a shopping center).

In no way would I ever anticipate I am going to move a stroller for a runner & they really don't get a choice (not meant snarky, I am just being literal), since running over the top of me & the stroller isn't a feasible option. And if I do not move, then there really isn't a choice, unless they want to pause & stand aside for me to pass. I am not familiar with walking a dog (never owned one) but I would think for safety as a runner I'd also give them space. I am not sure that it would be unreasonable for a dog to have a slightly natural defensive reaction to you running straight at them/the human walking them. If I was a runner, I too would alter my course and find a new location to run if I felt that the situations I was running into (lots of walkers) was often forcing me to move into a more dangerous situation (street traffic) and seek an area where this wasn't so common. That could be clouded by where I have lived though as in every place, you can find some place to run, even if it's downtown, that wouldn't force you onto the street to accommodate walking people. Perhaps in other areas this is different in ways I am unfamiliar with. It might be a slight inconvenience to take some form of transport to start running from a different start & end point, but if you run often, I would think the safety of your typical route would have to be one of the highest priorities you want to make. I live in an area great for walking and running (here the runners can pass us easily while everyone is on the path) but dangerous for bikes. If I want to go for a ride I never start from home. I load my bike (and my kids if they are going) and then drive the bikes to a starting point that is far less likely to expose us to injury risk. It is a bit of a hassle. I can't say it's not. I can say the hassle of transporting bikes is far less than the real hassle of serious injuries though.

  • 1
    I suspect that your experience may be different than mine. I don't know the details of your experience, but I'm assuming that my town is larger and busier than yours. Can you explain how you think your experience translates over to my situation?
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 20:42
  • ell it translates as in giving perspective. If in fact the walker, of any sort, doesn't move, you cannot run through them, so unless your intention is to stop & inform them of the equal obligations to step aside, then you are really going to have to take the initiative to go around. It also brings up the concept that your safety is your priority and your responsibility, so if running around these situations is not safe, you have to seek a safer situation since you can only control your own person.
    – threetimes
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 22:05

Of course, a lot depends on which side of the road you're on, if you're running on the side that has oncoming traffic coming towards you, then you would be able to see that the road is safe (apart from the odd cyclist), but if it was coming from behind you, you risk turning your head to check and tripping/hitting someone, if you don't look you risk being hit by traffic, so always run towards traffic, like you should when walking on a road with no pavement/sidewalk.

I often wonder how much further I have to run when running amongst pedestrians, if you count the extra meters it costs you swerving around them. I treat it as a kind of Zen exercise, choosing the path and adjusting my speed to anticipate their movements and exchanging subtle signals as to which of us will adjust which way. This is great until you come across someone staring into their mobile and their reaction when you're close is basically random and very hard to judge, so I'm ready to 'nudge' them out of the way, and I have no regrets about that, as they're behaving badly in the first place.


Hopefully, you're aware of the traffic anyway, and wouldn't move into the road unless it's safe. I suggest you should be the one to move into the road.

Start by making it obvious to the pedestrian: Move towards the road (onto the grass unless it's very muddy, but I run in cross-country shoes); check the traffic including over your shoulder, while still a couple of seconds away.

At that point, in the pedestrian's place (possibly with a child, but not a dog), I would squeeze to the side of the path to let you pass without going on to the road, and acknowledged your presence with some form of visual greeting. Most dog walkers would pull the dog a bit closer (beware of the ones that don't; they're often the same dogs that will run under your feet).

But if the walker doesn't step to the side, you've made it obvious which way you're dodging. You shouldn't have to break stride in the vast majority of cases.

From a philosophical point of view, I would say that the faster (and more nimble) person should bear the (slight) risk -- if you slowed to match the other person's speed you would eliminate the risk so the onus is on you. But I prefer a sharing nicely point of view.


Heres a true story My bosses daughter was driving her car when a runner just ran onto the road without looking causing her to brake suddenly so she would not hit him. The car behind hit her in the rear and killed her.

Roads are for cars, not runners.. people can be killed/ severely injured when people run into areas where there is road traffic without due care.

Best idea is to slow down and pass the walker carefully or run somewhere else

  • Looking to make sure there is not incoming traffic is also a good idea.
    – Pere
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 0:00
  • In the UK, police is still looking for a runner who pushed a pedestrian out of his way straight into the path of a bus. Bus driver deserves a medal for not killing her.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 23:21

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