How to Walk On A Sidewalk

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Most of us don’t walk much. There’s that one scene in LA Story where Steve Martin is going to go somewhere, and he packs up to get going, goes down to his car, and drives to where he’s going. A block away.

That movie is over 20 years old, and was meant to illustrate the weirdness of Los Angeles – a place where nobody walks anywhere, where the car is king.

Funny thing is, that scene isn’t that amusing any more. Instead of pointing out the weirdness of LA, it illustrates how most of us live these days. Need groceries? Get in the car. Need to get to school? Car. Need to get out of the house and get some fresh air? Drive to somewhere where there’s a walking path.

I’m not going to opine on the ongoing health and societal disaster that is car culture (that’s what Streetsblog and Mr Money Mustache are for); instead, I’ll focus on one small result of that culture – people don’t’ know how to walk with each other any more.

I live in a city, and run often. Because it’s a city, and because there are cars and busses and the occasional riding mower (true story), I have to run on the sidewalks. On those sidewalks, inevitably, I run into someone who’s walking like this:

Sidewalk  Crossing Diagram

I try to go left. They veer left. I go back right, they lurch to the right. Inevitably, I end up in the street, hoping my running shorts is decent armor against the cars that whiz by.

This kind of thing isn’t only a problem for runners; a city sidewalk is a diverse place. Mothers push strollers, the young and busy crank along at Olympic speed walking speed, the elderly move slowly, sometimes helping themselves along with canes. It’s not like a freeway, where the top-level limit is set, and there are clearly defined ways to get around slower folks. Sidewalks are more like the roads in a developing country – move to where there’s space.

And as long as you follow one simple rule, you’ll be fine, and everyone else around you will figure it out.

Pick your line and follow it. Don’t waver.

Sidewalk Crossing Good Diagram

If you do want to stop and look at something in the air or in a window, stop first, then move towards what you want to see. If there is someone behind you, he won’t be directly behind you, because you’ve been keeping your line, and there won’t be one of those awkward collisions that never actually result in mildly amusing, redemptive romance.

You avoid being bumped into, and having someone swear at you. Others get the joy of getting to where they’re going, and not worrying about bumping into clueless you. Everybody wins!

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