LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Hundreds of walkers, runners, and cyclists in Lexington will be pounding the pavement 24 hours a day for the next seven days to raise awareness about the importance of sharing the road.
The group SAFE Lexington, which stands for streets are for everyone, formed last spring after two Lexington County runners, John Flanagan and Dianne Wells, were hit and killed within 18 months.
“We lost two friends within a year and a half,” SAFE committee member Bridget Winston said. “Both of them were out on early morning runs with their run groups, and two people was two too many. We didn’t want it to happen again.”
Rain and fog Friday afternoon didn’t stop the group from kicking off the 168-hour continuous relay.
Community members have signed up for one-hour time slots over the next seven days, and someone will be running, walking, or cycling this nearly two-mile course at all times, which begins at Radius Church in downtown Lexington.
One community member, Gary Blight, has signed up for several time slots because he knows firsthand what can happen when drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists don’t pay attention. He’s been hit by vehicles twice while on his bike. Both times, the driver was at fault.
“This guy was coming towards me, and he made a left turn, and he saw the car coming,” said Blight. “The car passed, but he wasn’t looking for a cyclist afterwards, and so he turned right into me. I broke a couple bones, but luckily, I healed. I still have some lingering things, but that’s why it’s important. As a cyclist now because of those accidents, I do things differently, but I also just want to remind people there are cyclists out here on the road.”
The Safety Run was originally scheduled for May 2020, but committee members decided to push back the date because of the pandemic. But during the summer months, the group says it began noticing more people exercising outdoors.
“We did see a lot of people and a lot of families out walking and running,” said Winston. “Unfortunately, we saw that a lot of them did not know the rules of the road and were not necessarily running or walking defensively. We also saw a lot of drivers who were not giving them space or not looking out for them or were distracted.”
Winston says starting the run-a-thon New Year’s Day would be a good way to kick 2020 to the curb and start the new year helping to make the community a little safer.
SAFE Lexington wants to remind drivers to keep their eyes out for pedestrians, but they also want to remind those running or cycling to wear bright reflective clothing. Also, pedestrians should stay on the sidewalk if there is one, and always walk or run facing traffic.
This group is also hopeful the Safety Run shows city and county leaders the importance of adding running trails, sidewalks, and crosswalks to help protect community members who choose to exercise outdoors.
“We have a lot of neighborhoods being built out in the Lexington High School area,” said Winston. “A lot of schools and a lot of neighborhoods are in close proximity to each other that are not connected by sidewalks or paths. So, we would love to see, not just for us running, but for our kids to be able to go out and ride their bikes over to a friend’s house or to be able to walk or ride their bikes to school safely. Right now, that’s not an option.”
The spouses and children of John Flanagan and Dianne Wells plan to participate in some of the hourly time slots this week.
If you would like to sign up, you can find more information here.