Walk This Way: Tips for pedestrian etiquette

These days the streets of Boston (and most metropolitan areas) are full of pedestrians connected to smartphones –following the latest news, music, emails, or Facebook post–while tuning out their surroundings. This contributes to the common occurrence of pedestrians walking into stationary objects (i.e. street lamps, kiosks, other people). This actually prompted the British government to create the world’s first “text safe” street, complete with padded lamp poles!

I can’t help but be reminded of a lyric from Aerosmith, one of the most famous Boston-born rock bands. Instead of creating a city of padded surfaces, I’d rather we borrow some rules of the road and “walk this way” to share the sidewalks with our fellow pedestrians:

  • Stay to the right – This is the number one rule of walking. Staying to the right will help you and everyone else avoid those awkward moments on the sidewalk when you don’t know who is going to go left or right. This is also helpful for avoiding collisions as you turn a corner.
  • Don’t stop suddenly – You wouldn’t do that in a car, so why do it while walking? Stopping short can create a three-pedestrian pile up behind you.
  • Don’t take up the entire sidewalk – If you’re walking with one or more people, try not to all walk in a parallel line. First, people can’t get by you walking the opposite way. Second, and possibly even more annoying, faster walkers can’t get around if they are behind you.
  • Walk faster or move over – Very similar to the right hand lane on the highway, if you are walking slowly and prohibiting people from passing please move over. Otherwise you might get a flat tire* from a tailgating pedestrian.
  • Get off the phone – To bring it all back around again, get off the phone. I know it’s difficult (I do it too). But walking and talking is a recipe for disaster. If you have to pick up the phone, pull over to the side of the sidewalk and talk so you don’t cause any other pedestrian crashes along the way.
  • Pedestrian flat tire definition = Stepping on the rear portion of the shoe as the foot lifts and thereby removing it. Also known as a “heels.” A variant is to kick someone’s heel forwards as it lifts.

Bostonians and tourists love to enjoy the walkability of our city in the spring and summer months. Learning to share the sidewalk would make this much more pleasant. Don’t you agree?

Eric Halvorsen, MAPC Transit Planner