A guide to not being a sidewalk jerk

Hello friends.

It has become apparent that you are all terrible at being pedestrians. I feel confident saying that despite some good eggs and battle-tested walkers such as New Yorkers, most Americans are obliviously selfish, inconsiderate users of sidewalk space. It’s true even in a city like mine, where a large chunk of people commute on foot.

Perhaps it’s because cars are the default mode of transportation in this country, and once on foot outside a car, people view everything as some kind of personal leisure space, not a system that still requires a certain amount of order, competition, and cooperation.

Whatever the cause, the point is, my friends, that you are always getting in the damn way of other people who are trying to get places. I know you don’t mean to, but you do.

But I’m here to help. Here, using some handy diagrams, is a short guide to not being a jerk and getting the hell out of the way.

Guide to Not Being a Sidewalk Jerk

You’re welcome. Now get out of the way.


  1. I should print this out and be prepared to hand it to fellow travelers. Useful for the platforms in subway stations, too (though Downtown Crossing is probably hopeless).

    All of this goes doubly for the Longfellow Bridge, especially since pedestrians and cyclists currently have to share a sidewalk during construction.

    1 February 2016 @ 2:47pm

  2. I wholeheartedly support this (probably hopeless) campaign to train pedestrians. I am a person with limited vision. I walk on the right (as I always have), but I frequently find myself in the faces of fellow pedestrians who are walking on the left, facing me, with no excuse at all for not walking on the right. Further, every time this happens I am the one who has to take last-minute diversionary action.

    3 February 2016 @ 1:43pm

  3. Charlotte, if you simply stop walking they are forced to make the decision. It’s an amazing way to win everytime.

    7 February 2016 @ 5:49pm

  4. The best is when I walk my dog I walk her on my right since it makes more sense then putting her in between me an the people walking the other way. But for some odd reason a lot of people walk on their left side of the side walk so when they are coming the other way they are walking straight at my dog. And they’ll for whatever reason will NOT simply move to the right (the correct side). So I typically just stop walking which leaves them to have to make a decision. And EVERY time they stick to the left and end up walking into people’s lawns or bushes to pass me. AND they’re obviously scared of the dog but walk past it. Instead of walking past me. It makes absolutly no sense. I usually just say, “Really?” as they navigate through someone’s flowers.

    7 February 2016 @ 5:50pm

  5. So true. This behavior is especially bad at airports where space is limited and lots of people are trying to get somewhere fast. There’s a need for improved traffic flow in such places – could good signage that illustrates pedestrian etiquette be part of the solution?

    responsible D
    13 March 2016 @ 3:36pm