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January 2009
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Sidewalk Etiquette

I spend a lot of time on the sidewalk; going to and from work, going to my neighbourhood shops, going shopping downtown, and running. Overall I don’t think there is much sidewalk etiquette out there, it seems to be very ‘every man for himself.’ I got to thinking about this last night as I walked from the subway to school and I think there are different rules for urban, suburban and rural.

Sidewalks in the City

I’m talking about the ones in the downtown cores, you know the ones. The ones near the main public transportation stops. The ones in the financial district. The ones that always seem full of people. A couple of tips that might make these easier to navigate:

  • respect the sidewalk like a road: For the majority of us that means walk to the right hand side. And if you are playing on your mobile, listening to music or even reading a book, stick to the right side. Leave room for those who want to travel faster in the ‘left hand lane’ or middle of the sidewalk (but be weary not to cross the centre line, it can be vicous!!)
  • Wait for the bus on the bus stop pad: yesterday I watched a guy block the entire sidewalk as he waited for his bus. Granted the sidewalk wasn’t that busy but he had his back turned to some of the on-coming pedestrian traffic, who had to manoever awkwardly in the snow to avoid him
  • don’t hog the middle: if you happen to be out when it isn’t that busy make sure you leave room for others. Too often are people walking with their heads down oblivious to others

The Suburban Story

Typically the sidewalks here are not as busy and usually they are narrower than the big city blocks of the downtowns.   And usually they are not as crowded. Lumped in with the traditional suburban sidewalks I am also going to include the residential ones of cities, again they are not usually as busy and are narrow. A few tips to remember:

  • avoid walking in the middle: maybe the rules of the road shouldn’t necessarily apply, some drivers go really fast down those residential roads. Instead walk to the inside (the area closest to the homes). This gives people who are running, speed walking, inline skating, etc the chance to get by
  • dog issues: please pick up any poo and please hold your dog to give ways to runners

Rural Sidewalks

Typically they do not exist. This is more as a driver. Please be aware of people who are recreationally using the side of the road (the shoulder area) since there is no sidewalk.

If we could all be more polite on the sidewalk (myself included) they would probably be more efficient.


Comment from Adron
Time February 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Nice entry. In Portland we rarely have sidewalks so busy as that of a large city. But there are times, that this comes up. Portland has a completely odd, and sometimes confusing, sidewalk process.

People mostly tend to follow a left/right sidewalk approach, but there are many who just sort of float here and there. Then of course, this is exascerbated by the politeness and passive aggressiveness of Portlanders. Both a nice thing, and an annoying thing to deal with. Rarely does someone assert themselves and tell a “blocker” to be respectful and stand aside. That’s where my Mississippi upbringing kicks in and I demand some respectful behavior. Fortunately, it really doesn’t happen much.

…anyway, as this comment is odd, so in Portland, and so is most of our sidewalk ethic. :)

When are you going to visit ole bridge/stumptown city here in the western US? You could always grab a ride on the Canadian, or drop into the US and ride the Empire Builder! :)