Urban Sprawl | 04.25.19

I sometimes wonder whether runners that reside in rural areas are less prone to anger. Aside from dogs that aren’t tethered to local leash laws, are they more relaxed than their suburban counterparts? Are the runners that hail from the “middle of nowhere” less anxious, less apt to aggravation? Maybe a town like Smallville, Kansas.

I live in a suburb of Sugar Hill, Georgia, and the city is undergoing noteworthy growth at the moment. New homes. New apartments. New restaurants. New businesses. And less trees. The two-lane road adjacent to my home is no more; the now four-lane highway causes me to pause every time I activate the crosswalk timer and wait for the indication. I don’t mosey across. No, I scurry, and I cast my eyes across every lane for stopped vehicles.

I like to tell people that I run for mental clarity. Running is my time to literally step out of the home for sixty to ninety minutes and be with music and be with God as I see the city on foot. Though most runs conclude as they should — with minimal, if any, fanfare — there are runs marred by anger. My anger towards people in automobiles and the interactions that commence at crosswalks.

Whether it’s a major crosswalk with a signal or a minor one for a business or school that’s likely without, I always approach those white, striped lines with expectation and trepidation. Expectation that drivers will yield to pedestrians. Trepidation that drivers won’t yield to pedestrians. Why? Smartphones and their accompanying distractions. The state of Georgia imposes a “Hands Free Law,” but I still see people drive through crosswalks with a phone to their ear. I’m deeply grateful to say that I’ve never been struck by a vehicle, but there have been a few close encounters.

Unsurprisingly, those experiences left me rattled. Flabbergasted and distraught. Aghast and angry. In fact, I’ve never spoken to a driver since the window is usually up, but a few months ago I stopped on the sidewalk to tell a driver exiting his car in a gym parking lot that he should watch for runners. I left it there and resumed, eager to see my family after that fantastic display of disregard. I hope he thought about the precious feet he left between his bulky car and my thin frame in the crosswalk.

Running should expel exasperation, but I’ve noticed a cruel irony. Some runs cause anger instead of quelling it, which is why the Scriptures repeatedly urge peace on my part. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” writes James. I desire to be slow to anger, but drivers periodically spur my tongue towards a sprawling spew. James speaks about the tongue at length in chapter three. “The tongue is a fire, a world of righteousness,” he adds. I don’t curse out loud, but profanity rumbles inside my brain. This should not be.

The proclamation is clear: I cannot tame the tongue myself. But God will provide an escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). How I respond to drivers at crosswalks is my responsibility. No runner desires to run angry; that’s antithetical to its benefits. Distractions are the norm today. Pedestrians and motorists repeatedly cross paths in the suburbs. I must be slow to anger, even at a fast pace.

Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson

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Austin Bonds