Image via WikipediaSidewalk politics. As a lifelong pedestrian, the rules of navigating the pavement have been embedded in me, the laws of the footpath an unspoken understanding.
I learned everything from my mom, a defensive walker, just by watching her.
At the crosswalk, pedestrians have the right of way.
Don't walk three abreast down a busy sidewalk.
Stay in single file to work your way past a group of slow pokes.
Be mindful of other people.
If a driver doesn't stop at the cross walk and tries to run you over, accidentally or intentionally, you have every right to yell at him and bang on the hood of his car.
None of those rules ever came out of her mouth, but after walking with my mom every day to and from school and pretty much anywhere we went in the city (you don't really need a car in Philly, you can pretty much walk everywhere. For longer trips, a bike or some SEPTA tokens will do. This is why, at 25 years old, I still don't know how to drive-- I've never lived in a place that required it.), I learned the common courtesies of traveling amongst the public and the appropriate ways to handle any sidewalk situation.
Common courtesy is just the general respect for other people. It's assisting in a quick yet thoughtful way when someone, for example, drops a package or slips on some ice, and getting on with your day. It's moving out of the way when you're on the subway and another person is trying to get off the train. It's holding the door for someone when you're on the train platform and they're running down the stairs trying to get to work on time. It's being aware of your surroundings and not being a tool bag.
Common courtesy and sidewalk politics go hand in hand, the way I'd hold my mom's hand back in my learning years on our morning walk to McCall Elementary. You would think that most adults have learned common courtesy-- that it would be common knowledge. Just like common courtesy, you would expect that everyone knows how to behave in public and how to get from point A to point B without slowing down traffic or causing an inconvenience to other pedestrians. Does the descriptor of "common" not say it all?
No. Apparently, not everyone had a mom like mine who taught them to be courteous and respect the space of strangers. Don't believe me? Try walking in the Union Square district of San Francisco, or any touristy area in any city, on any day in the afternoon and then come talk to me. People are friggin clueless.
When I'm walking somewhere I am conscious of what is going on around me, even with headphones on. I make sure that I stick to one side of the sidewalk to let people pass me and to allow traffic going in the opposite direction. When I'm walking with Ben or with a friend I make sure that we're not taking up the whole sidewalk and that we're not in anyone's way. I'm thoughtful like that.
Is it too much to expect courtesy from other pedestrians and sidewalk users? It shouldn't be, but sometimes it feels like it is, and I'm not the only one who feels that way. The other day, I asked my Twitter followers what they thought about sidewalk politics. Here's what some of them had to say:
@LifeWithKaishon wishes more people would smile on the sidewalk. "You never know when you're going to meet a good friend." I agree: seeing happy people go about their day makes me feel happy. Just don't tell me to smile when you pass me on the street because you're only going to get a grumpy face in response.
@Thank_Q wishes people wouldn't spit on the sidewalk. Me too, that is just nasty. I live in San Francisco and people leave even nastier bodily fluids on the footpath and that is not nice.
@SoCalTJ wrote: "I can't stand the people who walk extra slow so they can text." I agree completely. Remember what I said about being self aware? Step to the side, people. Step to the side.
@melbsonmymind says that people who walk their prams side by side drive her nuts (because you can't pass them without going into the street), as do sidewalk cyclists. I couldn't agree more. If you ride a bike, which is considered a vehicle, then you should really use that bike path that the city painted on the street for you. Seriously.
@SweenySays wrote: "if you wave to your friend behind me and I mistakenly wave back to avoid being rude, please don't give me that EWCREEPER face." HAHAHAHA, yes I believe that I've been on the receiving end of that EWCREEPER look and it's not pleasant.
It's clear that I'm not the only one who has a problem with how some people choose to monopolize the pavement for their own devices. Honestly, I just wish that people could be an iota more aware of what they're doing and realize that there are other people who have lives, jobs, and places to be. Hopefully I have raised some awareness with this post, but what else can be done? Perhaps I should start my own campaign and hang up posters around town, something similar to the "Stay Alert. Stay Awake. Stay Alive." signs you see on the highway. Do you think then people would get a clue?
[Side note: I wrote this as a guest post for someone's blog but it was rejected. I guess what's good for the Tsaritsa sez isn't always good for the gander.]
What do you think of this topic and can you relate? I'm interested to hear other takes on the issue!