March 14, 2014

Mississauga Runners on the Roads

It has been a challenging winter for runners. It has been dark, windy, snowy, icy, and downright cold. In my area of Mississauga, sidewalks have also been very treacherous. Ground conditions are usually an unpleasant mix of snow, slush, partially re-frozen slush, and ice (see Exhibit A below). And it often seems that the City of Mississauga crews don’t clear the sidewalks and bike paths by the time we get out to run, especially on Sunday mornings.

Exhibit A: Partially cleared sidewalk that has 1-2 inches of snow-slush that varies from slippery to ankle-breaking solid
Exhibit A: Partially cleared sidewalk that has 1-2 inches of snow/slush that varies from slippery to ankle-breaking solid
Exhibit B: Completely uncleared sidewalk, 10-15cm deep snow. Note the tauntingly clear roadway to the left.
Exhibit B: Completely uncleared sidewalk, 10-15cm deep snow. Note the tauntingly clear roadway to the left.

As a result of the weather, we may have run on the road. When sidewalks are icy, snowy, slushy, or something in between, a completely clear roadway directly adjacent to the sidewalk is very tempting (see Exhibit B above). Roads are often clear before the sidewalks for a number of reasons:

  • They are plowed first
  • Asphalt usually retains heat better than concrete and melts more snow
  • Car traffic helps clear the snow

I appreciate that drivers don’t like that we take away their lane. There are often bike lanes we can use for running, but I know we would technically still be on the road. We’re well aware how dangerous it is, but it’s a trade-off between dodging cars and almost certain injury on the sidewalk. I know runners and other pedestrians that have slipped on sidewalks this winter and gotten a variety of injuries from broken bones to concussions. I have yet to hear about a runner getting hit by a car this winter.

Some drivers occasionally honk or wave angrily, and some brush too close to us, but I didn’t know there was overt anger until I saw a letter published in The Mississauga News. This letter by Trasi Arndt was published on February 25, 2014:

Dear Editor:

Runners need to keep off the roads! It is winter. The roads are icy and visibility of drivers is affected by snowbanks. Drivers face enough challenges without also having to avoid hitting runners!

I understand the sidewalks are messy and slippery. It is winter! But running outdoors is hazardous.

When people run on the road, they not only endanger themselves, but also every person in every vehicle around them! And it’s not okay to put my family and me at risk.

Our roads are designed and intended for licensed vehicular traffic — not runners! Sidewalks and many scenic pathways are made for them.

Runners should be charged and fined for running on the streets.


I am glad there was a reply. An appropriate rebuttal by Will Clews posted was published in the March 7 edition of the Mississauga News:

Dear Editor:

Re: “Don’t run on the road,” letter published in the Feb. 26 edition of The News.

The runners you see running on the road have no other choice. They are neither idiots nor disrespectful. How about the people that do not clear their sidewalks? What about the city, there are a large number of city sidewalks that are a total mess!

These are dedicated runners who sacrifice a great deal! This winter has been a testimonial to our dedication and commitment to our training!

The same runners represent Canada in the Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, plus a host of other countries. These same runners wear the Canadian Maple Leaf proudly!

When you see a runner, stop your car for five seconds and I guarantee you’ll get a smile and a wave!

Full disclosure: I recognized the name Will Clews immediately. He’s a running coach for several of my friends and a member of the locally famed Nomads Running group.

And, fair is far. A quick Google search reveals that Trasi Arndt has previously written a letter to the editor complaining that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to be educated to share the roads and sidewalks better.


Obviously, I’m a fan of Will Clews’ reply.

And it’s not just runners that use the roads. I often run in Mississauga’s “City Centre” area and I often see dog-walkers, older folks, students, and families walking on the roads because the sidewalks are impassible.

It’s disappointing that the pedestrian/bike trails, like the Burnhamthorpe multi-use trail aren’t cleared and/or salted in a timely manner for pedestrians.

Toronto’s upcoming Municipal Election is getting a lot of attention. However, Mississauga’s long-time Mayor Hazel McCallion will be retiring in October and we will be electing a new mayor. I think accommodation of pedestrians should be an election issue!

What do you think about running on the road?

What should be done to improve sidewalk conditions for runners and other pedestrians?

Edit: March 15
I appreciate that there may be hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers of sidewalks to clear during the winter, so it’s obviously impossible to keep them all well-maintained. From what I understand, some Mississauga roads are considered priorities. Perhaps a similar priority can be given to clearing sidewalks in pedestrian-heavy neighborhoods like Port Credit, Cooksville, Streetsville, and
City Centre? I know there used to be a City advisory committee for cyclists. Perhaps there should be something similar for runners who can promote which sidewalks should be cleared with higher priority.

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1 Comment »

  1. Pranada says:

    This opinion may not be popular, but I tend to favor treadmills (which have served Krista Duchene just fine, for example) when the sidewalks become unpassable. Around the time Meg Menzies (a runner in Virginia) was fatally hit by a car this winter, the police came around to the Running Room and warned people to be careful because if there was a collision with a runner on the road, the runner would be considered at fault. When I see the RR gang out in the Beaches this winter, they’re on the sidewalks. I know it’s hard to build up miles through the winter when there’s snow to deal with and your options are crowded sidewalks, ankle deep (or worse) snow, or roads – and I think Mississauga has it rougher than we do here in the 416. But I don’t think any of us runners have a right to our “dedication and commitment” at the expense of road safety. If – IF – drivers are legitimately endangered by our presence, we need to get off the roads whether or not there’s a good alternative.

    The vast majority of us aren’t elite athletes representing our nation – we’re doing something recreationally. I think Will might be stretching it a little with the “Canadian Maple Leaf” in Boston/NYC/Chicago/etc line. We don’t think of Americans coming to run STWM recreationally as representing the US, do we? In my mind, Canada is being “represented” in Boston this year by Lanni Marchant, and at the NYC Half by Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Krista Duchene.

    It would be great to mobilize some political will to make recreational trails passable year-round so that people have access to something that promotes health and fitness without feeling forced out into the roads. It’ll take some tax dollars, but if enough people don’t want to share the road with runners, they might be willing to chip in.