This page is for basic sidewalk safety and common courtesy, especially important for teaching toddlers the very basics, as it becomes your introduction for communication to more advanced topics as they get older. I am very aware that to some these tips may seem over the top, but to be honest knowing these things will certainly help you avoid collisions. Eventually you will learn these things too, either by reading the following, or by getting sick of running into people all the time. 😉
My goodness. When examining human behavior most people do not consider sidewalk etiquette. Considering the average speed of a walking human is between 3 and 5 mph, and that our bodies allow us to easily change direction, most ‘accidents’ can be avoided. And it’s not really an issue of safety, unless there are people running, skateboarders, children on bicycles, etc. that embody faster speeds and more momentum. Still, there are some basics that pedestrians should observe to make the sidewalk experience more enjoyable for everyone.
- Stop at crosswalks and wait for the light before crossing. This is even true with no traffic and on small easy to cross streets. The repetition of the correct behavior will help your child do the right thing when they’re a little older and are allow to cross the street by themselves. Most children are born fully functional, don’t screw that up because you were impatient too many times in the past. You don’t want your child to casually walk out into on-coming traffic and end up in a hospital. And are you really thinking when you step between parked cars? It’s easy for someone to put their car into reverse and crush those perfectly functional legs of yours.
- Don’t stop and stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Instead, stand and chat on the sides. Doing so makes it harder for people to get past you. It’s great when people stop and chat with their neighbors, but if you do so try to inch yourself towards the curb or building. It’s common sense and a very considerate thing to do.
- Walk on the right side of the sidewalk (or the side that would be equivalent to how vehicular traffic flows, in England, this would be on the left for example). Again it is much easier to get to your destination if everyone is following this basic rule. The same goes for using stairs at subway stations, malls, etc. And oh, as an Architect I have a bone to pick with the Architect who put an up escalator on the left side of the Lexington Subway Station at CitiCorp in Manhattan. That was a fundamental architectural mistake because it makes everyone who’s walking on the right have to cross over to the left and those walking towards you down the stairs on the right have to cross in front of the people trying to get to the escalator.
- When exiting a store, yield to ‘on-coming’ pedestrians. Really, just take a quick look and slow yourself down so you don’t find yourself bumping into a complete stranger, unless of course you’re looking for a date. This rule again basically reflect vehicular traffic of merging into traffic.
- Don’t dart across the sidewalk in front of on-coming pedestrians just to get into the store or doorway you happen to be going to. The person who’s coming towards you has no idea where you’re going, so may think that you want a kiss or something if you start walking straight towards them.
- When crossing a street, look behind you for any cars that might be turning into the crosswalk. You’d be surprised by how many drivers think they can make a left turn before oncoming traffic makes them wait, never considering that there are people crossing the street. There thoughts? “I’ll just floor it before the oncoming traffic begins to move, I’ll make it easy.”
- Be especially careful about walking around vehicles that are illegally parked, especially those on sidewalks or in crosswalks. I was once crossing on a crosswalk with my child at the intersection that is adjacent to her school. There was a car half in the crosswalk with a parent who just let out their child. I could see that while her car was idling, it was in park. Another car pulled up to the crosswalk thus putting us between the two as we crossed (with a crossing guard on duty). Just as we went behind the vehicle, the parent put her car into reverse. I tapped the back of her car to let her know we were behind her. That made her upset, lol. I had to remind her that 1) she was parked illegally and 2) she actually put her can into reverse. Based on her lack of judgement I wasn’t going to take a chance that she was actually going to move backward considering we were inches from her bumper. I really don’t think she fully understood and felt insulted that I tapped her car, not banging it, but tapping it. Anyway it goes to show you that your circumstances can change very quickly so stay alert. She, of course, didn’t apologize but instead expressed defensiveness and self-absorption.
- Avoid using any cellular devices or music devices; you need to keep your eyes and ears open as you cross the street.
- DO NOT step onto the crosswalk until you see that you have an adequate gap in traffic or all vehicles in all lanes have stopped or are stopping. Don’t assume they’re stopping, they might think they have a green light, or simply be confused or distracted. Don’t trust the walk go sign, look for yourself.
- On bad weather days (ice, snow, etc.) allow enough time for vehicles to stop. It seems obvious that weather can add an element of risk to every situation, but sometimes some people just don’t compensate for it.
- DO NOT run, for you may trip. Walking allows more time for vehicles to see you, allowing them to react appropriately to avoid you. When you run you make that part of ‘preventative safety responses’ disappear.
Learn how to Apologize: It is certainly better to avoid a ‘bump’, but if you don’t, do you say ‘excuse me’ or do you just continue like nothing happened? If the latter, then you are being rude. Teach your children first how to avoid bumping into people, and then how to apologize if required.
Subway Platforms & Bus Stops: It seems like common sense to let people off the public transportation vehicle first, to make more room for you to find a place to sit or stand once you enter so it amazing me that people stand directly in front of an opening subway door that is full of people who need to exit. Even the MTA here in NYC asks it’s patrons to ‘step aside to let passengers off’ as they want their trains to run on time, meaning if you don’t step aside you are actually slowing up your own ability to get to your destination faster. Those who don’t stand to the side can easily be classified as self absorbed individuals, possibly inconsiderate and potentially lack empathy for others (sociopaths). You see, knowing what you’re looking at might actually prevent you from entering into a long term and nightmarish relationship with someone who is inconsiderate. Think about it, if they are inconsiderate to strangers, they’ll probably be inconsiderate towards you.
Would you like to see more crosswalk designs? Check these out HERE.
While viewing crosswalk designs can be fun, I have a bit of a problem with making the markings on a crosswalk something other than pure boring, yet visible to drivers. First, pedestrians might actually pay more attention to the ground than to the vehicles around them, and second, the first reason might get them hurt. Cross Walk design should be nothing more than thick white lines on a road surface large enough (based on the speed limit for that road) for vehicles to see easily and acknowledge that there might be pedestrians crossing. Keeping it simple will keep people’s eyes off the ground. Also crosswalks should be non-slip. Sometimes painted surfaces can be very slick and we all don’t need the consequences of that.
Do you have any ideas that can be added to this list? Please comment, all ideas are welcome.