I sat briefly with two policemen at Starbucks this morning. Just sat my ass right down at their table. They were on break and hadn’t invited me to join them, but whatever.
I wanted to know whether it’s legal for joggers to jog in the road when traffic is present. I wanted to know this because I’d had to avoid oncoming jogger traffic several times on the way into town.
“Joggers in the middle of the road?” one of the policemen asked. “Not in the middle of the road,” I said, “but definitely in the road.”
“That depends on the road,” the one officer said. His partner was playing bad cop, I gathered, keeping his eye on me and not saying anything.
“Well, how about Augusta Road, then?” I asked, “I see it there a great deal.” “It could be illegal,” the officer said. “Could be, but not necessarily?” I asked. “It depends on conditions,” he said. “There have been times when I’ve had to move over to avoid them,” I said. “All the way over?” “Yes, completely change lanes.” “That could be illegal.” “But not necessarily?” “That’s right.”
“Would it be illegal for me to walk in the road?” I asked. Maybe the slower a person is moving, the less like a vehicle the law considers him to be. “It would if you were obstructing traffic,” the officer said, easily deflecting my hypothetical. “But maybe not,” I said. “That’s right.”
I thought, but didn’t ask, “So let’s say it’s rush hour. It’s raining. Twenty joggers are spread across my entire lane and the lane beside me is bumper-to-bumper so that I have to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting the joggers head on.” “Could be illegal,” the officer would say. “But not necessarily,” I’d say. “That’s right.”
Three lessons here: 1.) People don’t like it when you sit down at their table uninvited while they’re on break at Starbucks. 2.) Sometimes it’s perfectly legal for joggers to jog in roadways while traffic is present, because 3.) Traffic laws, like all laws, are enforced more as a matter of discretion than we might like to believe.
In all depends.