Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Road Rules

Some rules and general guidelines to walking in New York:
(or anywhere really, since we should all know this stuff)

A lot of the rules of the driving road apply to the sidewalk. 
One immediate problem you could identify is how few New Yorkers ever take a driving exam. So those rules, which often seem common sensical, are elusive to many. Another problem is that like the gorgeous English language, there are many exceptions to the rules. Let's review.
Slow on the right, passing to the left:
Picture it: You're late for work and would like to move quickly through the crowd. You end up having to dart left to right, back and forth through people because they don't seem to recognize this very basic premise of the road. 
Slow movers, I don't begrudge your speed. You have every right to move down the street like a slug. Go slow. But can we just all agree that the slow movers should stay to the right, so the people in a hurry can glide by effortlessly to the left? 

Unless, of course, we're talking about that 12-18 inch space at the edge of the sidewalk behind the phonebooths and parking signs... That space is sacred. It is reserved for the people that know about it's secret passageway potential, like those incredible boxes on the Clue board that will take you to the opposite side of the "house" instantly. It's the unofficial passing lane on a busy street. Sadly, I had to abandon using this magical portal when a stroller became part of my daily routine. But it must be respected and well tended, so don't crowd it with your parked bike or your sh!tting dog... we gotta get by!
Don't stop short: 
Did you forget to turn the oven off? Didn't realize you were headed east and not west? Suddenly realized you don't tell your husband you love him enough? Doesn't matter! Unless you are stopping because you are suffering the late stages of a coronary and are stopping just before you fall to the ground in cardiac arrest, there is no reason not to gradually move to the side. If a car stops short, the cars behind it will (and have every right to) plow into it from behind. Short stoppers, you are no different.

Check your blind spot before changing lanes:
*In this example the lanes are the imaginary parallel strips of each sidewalk that we all deserve to walk in uninterrupted and unobstructed. In fact, many blocks of this beautiful city help by paving actual lines into the cement. If you need a reference point, just stick to those lines. And if you're going to move to the side, check over your shoulder first to make sure no one is cruising along in your blind spot.
As in, two moving things headed directly towards each other... Something's gotta give.
Pull over to text or email:
The author should note that a good many points of this post were originally documented while walking, but I can assure you it was all done in the most efficient way possible. I never blocked anyone, walked into anyone, stopped short, veered off my course, or kicked a dog. And that's all true except for the last one, but he was tiny and jumped in my way. Which brings me to my next subject...
Dogs - but moreso the walkers of dogs:
Can the owners/walkers of dogs please agree to be more aware of your tripping hazard, AKA leash. If I walked around with a limbo stick at the ready, I would be conscious of the pitfalls it may present to other walkers. A leash is even more dangerous because it is thinner, lower to the ground and further out of our sight range. Obviously a limbo stick is way more fun as it tends to come with Calypso music or the song "Hot, Hot, Hot." But since there are way more leashes than limbo sticks, leash etiquette is what we need to work on.
Now, I think that dogs peeing on the streets is a questionable concept to begin with. It seems strange to me that you actually have to teach a dog to pee outside. Why not just teach them to pee inside? Why should they not be forced to learn what some humans and all cats know?
In any case, the outdoor peeing continues. Please keep it as close to the curb as possible to avoid those naturally occurring streams that flow from a building-side puddle all the way across the sidewalk towards the curb. No one enjoys walking or rolling through those little yellow babbling brooks. They don't even help wash away the remains of the poos that get "mostly" picked up. Not that I want people to stop picking up poos, I just wish the scoop could be more up and off than scraped across. 
Ok, that one has nothing to do with driving rules, but I feel better getting it out there.
Keep your wits about you:
The truth of the matter is, we don't solely walk in straight lines. By keeping your wits about you, you can better zig when someone else is zagging... even though zagging may be a ridiculous course for them to plot. Having a clear sense of where you are in relation to other walkers helps prevent crashes and also allows for overly dramatic behavior when a "zagger" is passing so that we may roll our eyes, throw our hands up in surrender, or whatever sarcastic act of superiority we care to use on that given day. 
If we all used the driving rules for walking, it would make for a much nicer experience out there. Of course our "accidents" aren't nearly as dangerous or costly, but the point remains the same: Let me get where I need to go, as fast as I need to get there. Stay out of my way. Go wherever you're going and I will stay out of your way. 

Simple, right?

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