Laws of the Road for Runners and Other Pedestrians in Idaho

If you are like me, your running paths include a lot of public government roads, which seem to all be categorized as “highways” in the Idaho State Code. Activity on all government roads is subject to state law, unless the roads are under city jurisdiction. County highway districts function under the Idaho Transportation Department. I tried to look at codes for the city of Nampa, but couldn’t find anything specific to pedestrians. The city of Boise has a few more guidelines, but they are pretty much just a repetition of Idaho state laws regarding pedestrians.

Runners, a subset of pedestrians, do not have as much right of way on roads, or anything associated with roads, as you might think. Thanks to the government, the basic arteries that connect us all are heavily biased toward automobiles. I like my car as much as the next person, and I have no problem using gasoline to get me about, but I still find this emphasis by the government ironic when they spend so much time telling us we should drive less and walk more. I see very little in the laws to make pedestrian locomotion easy or enjoyable, except possibly if very confined city spaces.

Again, I’m not advocating laws “in favor” of pedestrians, so much as I’m advocating they just stop making so many laws regulating everyone in general. I’m wishing for days gone by when walking (or running) along a road was considered normal and part of what roads were really for. I remember the fun of being part of a crowds on foot in Taipei and Shanghai, where they ruled the roads they were on by sheer numbers. And I see more benefits of private roads, where the owners can arrange usage according to customers, instead of rules being imposed by the few who manage to obtain power to rule-making. Most “law makers” have long since abandoned making laws that maintain freedom for the rest of us.

Here is a summary of how the government thinks you should go about using the road system if you are on foot, or using any device that helps those with limited foot power:

  • obey any applicable instructions where you are
  • sidewalks must be used when available and practical
  • use the shoulder of the road as far as practical if there is no sidewalk
  • stay as far to the edge of the road as practical if there is no shoulder, always yielding to all vehicles
  • on a 2-way road, proceed only on the left hand side
  • if you are facing a circular green light, you may cross with care, unless it is otherwise prohibited
  • if you are facing (only) a green arrow, no crossing allowed
  • if you are facing a yellow circular light, be warned that you may have insufficient time to cross
  • if you are facing any red light, you may not cross
  • when you enter an intersection, you must yield to vehicles already lawfully in the intersection, even if you have a “walk” signal (but, let’s face it, who wants to play chicken as a pedestrian versus a motorized vehicle?)
  • if the pedestrian signal changes to “don’t walk,” you may continue to proceed through an intersection if you are already in it
  • you must use a crosswalk if you are between two adjacent intersections with crosswalks
  • if you are crossing somewhere other than where there are crosswalks, you must yield to all vehicles

Obviously the practicality of how you get along on foot on the road is subjective. However, I don’t think they mean what you think is practical, but what they think is practical. If we could only read their minds. As far as being barefoot on the roads, the road mix they scatter all along the edges and shoulders is not the most pleasant surface to run on for me yet, although I am getting better at it. It goads me some that they are basically spiking the surfaces with sharp tacks. They probably think shoes would be practical. Some of us know running with bare feet is very practical for our joints and enjoyment of running.

Fortunately, there is not that much traffic where I run and the local folks are nearly all pleasant and willing to share the road with me. Possibly they understand that even with shoes, the loose gravel and skidding that would go on on the shoulder of the road are impractical for the pedestrian. It would be easy to twist an ankle. Or there is the issue that the shoulder appears and disappears and it is impractical to be constantly weaving on and off of the road. I will do some of my running on greenbelt paths, especially during times of more traffic, but sometimes I will be running on the roads. In the most practical way, of course.

About Laura Blodgett

I am just an ordinary 53 year old woman having extraordinary fun!  My fun right now includes barefoot running, swimming, triathlon training, gardening, discovering how to be a grandma (going by the grandma name of "Lulu"), sewing, studying Mandarin Chinese, learning about the stock market, non-institutional Christian fellowship, cooking, and occasional traveling. Read more about me here!

  • Gypzy

    I have felt recently like I play chicken when running barefoot on the road. Cars must wonder if I’m going to move out of their way. Of course, if they nicely move first, I don’t need to. Also, a question for you. What’s the legal definition of jaywalkng? How do we know if and where it’s illegal to cross a road?

  • lauraimprovises

    I believe the term “jaywalking” refers to a pedestrian crossing a street in between places that have been designated for crossing, such as mentioned in the second to last bullet point above. This is usually in cities. In other places it is a matter of being careful of and yielding to vehicles in a safe and timely manner. Hence, taking the straightest, shortest trajectory to cross the road may be what you need to do.

    I think it is wise for any runner to choose low traffic times if much of the running needs to be done on the road or road side.

  • Mom

    Ahh… for the days of horse and buggy, dirt roads, and more foot traffic ! ~~ :-)