Urban Etiquette: Be a Better Pedestrian — Or Get Out of My Way

by Borderstan.com August 16, 2011 at 11:00 am 6,232 27 Comments

Borderstan, Urban Etiquette, Mike Kohn

Are you a sidewalk pig? When you are in a group do you take up the entire sidewalk, forcing approaching pedestrians to step into the street? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Welcome to the second edition of Urban Etiquette. Every two weeks Borderstan contributor Mike Kohn will be writing about some common-sense rules of etiquette with an urban twist. Why? We live in a densely populated area of a big city, which makes treating others with basic respect and thoughtfulness even more important. We welcome your ideas for future columns.

From Mike Kohn. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Let me paint you a picture.

You’re walking down the street. You’re a Borderstan resident, so you’ve got a political function to attend, a media party you’re stopping by, a happy hour you’re meeting friends at, etc. You did your best to get out of work on time, but that last minute crisis took longer than expected, so you’re of course running a few minutes late. You approach the light at Dupont Circle and you see the white man just about to change to the red hand and you think to yourself, “I’m gonna make it!” And then it happens.

One rule of the sidewalk: If you’re with a group, instead of forming a giant wall, break into smaller pieces to walk together. Don’t be those people who take up the entire sidewalk. It’s annoying.

Four seemingly innocent people stand talking on the corner, taking up the entire sidewalk and blocking your path to the crosswalk behind them, forcing you to miss the light and wait for the next crossing, looking fairly unimpressed.

So what would I do? I’m not shy about running people over. I would be making that light.

6 Rules for Urban Pedestrians

Pedestrian etiquette isn’t too complicated folks, so come on. Here are some basics:

  • Don’t walk in the middle of the sidewalk. Just like driving (or the Metro escalator for that matter), slower on the right, faster on the left. As an aggressive pedestrian, I want to pass you and I will do it the easy way or the hard way. Your choice.
  • If you’re with a group, instead of forming a giant wall, break into smaller pieces to walk together. Don’t be those people who take up the entire sidewalk. It’s annoying.
  • Don’t be an idiot: messing with traffic, bike or car, is a bad idea. This one really should be a no-brainer, but I have to mention it. Not only is it a safety thing, but MPD is clamping down on jaywalking, so now it’s about your health and your wallet.
  • Watch where you’re going. If you have to text and walk at the same time, pay attention to everyone else so you’re not an obstacle that everyone else has to avoid. Or better yet, stop on the side for a second to send your text and make everyone happier.
  • Keep your pets in check. Dogs have a mind of their own — and so do all the other people out there. Tori Tyree has some other tips on this note.
  • Why so angry? At least feign friendliness. No, this isn’t the Midwest where everyone says hi to strangers on the street, but could we attempt to shake the East Coast stereotype of being downright unpleasant?

You’re not the only person trying to get somewhere. I know your iPod just came up with the best song in the world and that your friend on the phone just made a hilarious joke, but focus.

What else drives you crazy? I’m putting out the call for other urban etiquette ideas, so leave a note in the comments about anything else pedestrians do or any other topics that you want me to cover.


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