The following is a commentary submitted by the author.
As an avid runner who is on Kelly Drive and the surrounding trails almost six days a week, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing similar faces at certain times of the day, the same groups pounding the pavements, cyclists on their commutes or long rides, even those on rollerblades who seem to defy all rules and weave in and out of traffic. Having access to a path such as Kelly Drive makes you appreciate living in Philadelphia, and makes our great city so unique. In fact, while on Kelly Drive and the surrounding trails, you almost feel like you aren’t even living in a city.
Though it is a great joy to see so many individuals, young and old, those native to Philadelphia and those who are visiting, use Kelly Drive and the surrounding paths, I can’t help but wonder then why this well-traveled trail lacks “manners.”
I cannot express the number of times when I have been almost narrowly run over by a bicyclist, when a person walking has switched sides abruptly, causing me to stop dead in my tracks or have to jump to the other side, or, when a group of people, running four to five people in a row, have blocked the entire pathway. Not only is it extremely frustrating, but it is dangerous.
But what is really concerning is that no one communicates on “the road.” I always try to communicate when I am passing someone, when I am switching sides, or veering off course to turn around. I was taught this was polite running etiquette. Yet, I rarely encounter anyone who does the same, aside from a short scream of, “Move over!” I totally and completely understand that in many cases, such as for myself and others, exercising may be a solitary effort. Yet, does that mean we shouldn’t use our manners and communicate with others on a trail?
The fact that more and more people are using alternative ways to commute is absolutely fantastic. But, with greater foot and bicycle traffic, comes more responsibility. Even if you are not driving in a car, you still need to mind your manners and communicate your actions with other pedestrians. As a society, we have no problem using our voices on media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so why can’t we just talk to each other on the trails?
No conversations are needed. Really, the solutions may be as simple as warning someone before passing, saying excuse me when weaving in and out of foot traffic, or kindly ask those to not block the entire pathway. Another suggestion would be to keep the volume low on your headphones so you can hear someone coming up on the pathway, and not have to jump into the Schuylkill to get out of the way- though if you are training for a triathlon, you can get your swim workout in. And, never stop in the middle of a run, jog, or walk. You wouldn’t want a car to stop abruptly on 76 without warning. Prevent a backup and a potential injury on the trail, and move over to the side. Politely acknowledging other pedestrians doesn’t hurt (unless you’re nineteen miles in on a twenty mile run). If anything, it shows we are aware of our surroundings.
There is no need to grab your Emily Post handbook, though she would probably tell me to fold a napkin correctly and use my salad fork (but what if you only have one set of forks?) Instead, practice common sense and use common courtesy on the trails. Whether it is your first time on Kelly Drive or you practically live there every day, each one of us still needs to do our part to keep the paths and trails safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Katie Baker currently teaches writing courses at Philadelphia University, Rosemont College, and Thomas Jefferson University. She lives in East Falls and co-runs a small writing business called Pen and Ink. She enjoys reading, writing, and running, though not all at the same time.