To be frank, I’ve put off this post for a while, but I can’t put it off any longer. I walk in a stream of people, and, I kid you not, I cringe. Why? Because I’m always having to avoid running into people who aren’t paying attention. They’re text messaging, adjusting their clothes, staring at the sky (perhaps looking for aliens?), and–my personal favorite–standing there just taking up space on a busy sidewalk. Obviously, walking hazards are major pet peeve of mine.
The problem I see is that while humans generally have mastered the basic mechanic techniques of bipedal walking by age two or three at the latest, the concept of walking etiquette falls short. This isn’t an issue on a lonely road, sidewalk, or path. However, get a crowd together, and you’re in for trouble.
Therefore, I’m not-so-humbly proposing my rules for safely navigating sidewalks, footpaths, and other areas where mass quantities of humans seek to move unencumbered.
- Realize you’re not the only human in the stream. The ‘stream’ is the flow of human traffic, much akin to the flow of water in a river, and you are a molecule within that flow. Your actions inherently cause ripple effects. I base this concept on a show from the Science Channel which covered fluid dynamics and how they applied to traffic patterns. You remember when the Science Channel did science shows, versus reality TV? Kinda like when the History Channel did history biopics and not just Nostradomus end-of-the-world apocalyptic crap? Anyway, accept some responsibility for your impact on the stream. Yeah, that’s a bit meta. Move on. 😉
- Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s fine to check your smart phone, but be aware if you’re walking straight into oncoming people, physical obstructions (although it’s funny to watch people walk into poles, I must admit), or traffic for that matter. Also, this is a basic personal safety measure. If you’re on a nature trail you don’t want to be surprised by a mountain lion, right? Yeah…
- Walk in a predictable pattern on straightaways. Are you asking yourself, what the hell did she just say? I’m asking you to walk in a straight line, most of the time. Not around corners, when you need to turn, but when you’re walking down a block, stick to a line on the pavement and don’t weave back and forth like a drunkard. Let’s all just pretend you’re sober for the time being. Why? Because other people are walking next to you, and they’re likely walking at different speeds. If you wander all around you’re going to knock into them, or prevent them from walking past you, effectively blocking them if you’re a slow walker.
- If you decide to stop walking, move to the side of the walkway and then stop. How intuitive is this one? And yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost mowed down someone who was walking along at a fast pace in front of me. You’ve seen it happen too, I’m sure, and then the person who gets run over is always the one who’s pissed, as if they have the right. Can you fully blame the person behind them who had little to no warning? I don’t. If you stop with no warning, I’m gonna plow right into you, no questions asked, with my elbow square in your back. Fair warning.
- When walking abreast with friends, allow room for others to maneuver around you. This is similar to point #3, where basically the point is about not hogging the walkway and respecting everyone’s right to the space. Fairness and equality, and all that bull.
- If you pass someone because they’re walking slowly, don’t slow down in front of them afterwards. Do I even need to explain this one? It’s rudeness incarnate. You hate it while driving, why wouldn’t you hate it while walking?
- Respect the flow of movement. This is key, and will help you move faster through crowds. I’m assuming you’re paying attention to the people around you, who’s moving, and who’s not. If not, try it out for once. Avoid the stagnant areas and walk with the open areas, which tend towards the centers in very dense crowds.
- Don’t dump your trash/spit on the path. I don’t need to be stepping in it. Besides, who do you think is supposed to clean up after you? Seriously folks, don’t be a disgusting git, use a wastebasket like civilized people!
- Keep pets on leashes and near to your person in high traffic areas. I know, this blog is about walking, so why am I talking about pets now? Because I almost tripped over some chick’s tiny dog she had running around (she was chatting in the middle of the sidewalk, and wasn’t paying attention to what her dog was doing), her dog shot out in front of me, I tripped and almost injured it, and then she yelled at me for not watching where I was going! Anyway, I love pets, I’m sure you love yours too, so take good care of them, please.
Those are my rules. I urge you to adopt them as your own. Or feel free to add more in the comments below. Lay it on me. Don’t worry–if it’s too harsh I’ll just go for a walk. 🙂