Pedestrian Etiquette: How to Navigate a City Sidewalk
The basics of walking on city sidewalks may seem like common knowledge, but in reality, many people are unfamiliar with proper pedestrian etiquette. In fact, knowing how to navigate a sidewalk properly in a city setting can be overwhelming, especially with so many variables from transportation options and billboards to many shops and noises. Big cities can be very difficult to navigate, especially if you are from out of town.
Diane Gottsman, the founder of The Protocol School of Texas and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, says “Safety and courtesy go hand and hand.” With that in mind, here are some things you need to know in order to navigate the city sidewalk like a professional.
Keep to the Right
In the United States, our cars drive on the right side of the street. Pedestrians can stick to this rule of thumb as well, imitating car traffic patterns. This can help the flow of pedestrian traffic on crowded sidewalks.
Follow another Pedestrian
When you follow another walker, you can match your pace to their speed and follow their lead through a crowd. Even if you don’t know this person, it’ll make your walk more efficient (unless of course, they stop abruptly). To pass someone, proceed carefully to make sure that you won’t disrupt the flow of walkers around you.
Managing a group of friends while walking on a busy sidewalk can be overwhelming and challenging since the sidewalk will need to be shared with other pedestrians. Rather than walking five across a wide sidewalk, try to walk double file or single file. You don’t want to create a moving wall on the sidewalk. Sticking to single or double file allows space for other pedestrians to pass.
Pocket your Phone
Walking and texting may seem like an efficient way to multitask, but it can actually be pretty dangerous on crowded sidewalks. You may only suffer a mean comment, but it’s also possible that while distracted you may suffer — or cause — an accident or injury. It’s important to pay attention while walking.
Pass with Room to Spare
It can be annoying to get stuck behind someone who is walking at a glacial pace, but be careful when you pass them. You want to ensure enough room to their side, the oncoming traffic, and space to then walk in front of them without cutting them off. Really, walking on a sidewalk is very much like driving.
Don’t Stop Abruptly
While you may realize that you’ve just missed your destination or you see something that makes you want to stop walking, don’t do it. Try to merge out of the busy flow of walkers to the edge of the sidewalk before stopping. When you stop abruptly, people are likely to walk right into you, or at the very least get frustrated.
Watch Your Umbrella
Rainy days will happen, and on those days, an umbrella changes the space that you occupy. In fact, when you are walking towards someone, lift your umbrella higher to avoid poking them. Once in a building, close your umbrella and shake it away from other people.
Follow the Signs
Traffic signs are there to provide direction and safety to pedestrians and vehicle operators. While it is illegal to jaywalk or ignore crosswalks in some countries; in the United States, beyond safety, these signs are good practices to follow.
A key component to navigating any sidewalk is to exercise paying attention to your surroundings always. Be aware of the buildings around you as well as the people. Don’t stop to chat at the opening of an alleyway or in front of a restaurant door. Another way to foster good will is to greet people: make eye contact, smile, and acknowledge them with a simple “hello.”
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