Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our Guide To Pedestrian Etiquette

Last post, we talked about the hazards of being a pedestrian, which focused on outside threats that must be avoided by those who are walking. Now, I'm going to turn the tables: How can YOU be a good pedestrian?

The single most important thing that you, as a pedestrian, must do is pay attention. The burden of responsibility here should be equal between cars and pedestrians, but sadly, that's not usually the case. More often than not, pedestrians need to be extra vigilant to avoid being struck. Paying attention while walking means that you need to avoid texting and talking on the phone at critical times during a walk; i.e. when you're crossing the street or in an otherwise potentially unsafe situation, like a construction area. Also, while walking with a friend or a group of friends is fun and usually safe, make sure that you're not so distracted by your conversation that you make a mistake like crossing the street when you're not supposed to, or not noticing when something dangerous comes into your path. 

One of the best things that you can do from the standpoint of safety, which is related to paying attention, is walking decisively. Many car drivers are already too confused by and dismissive of pedestrians as it is, and waffling while walking just makes it worse. Use your right of way, and cross with purpose at intersections. Your confidence will help drivers have more respect for pedestrians.
Ideally, car drivers will always have a close eye out for pedestrians, but if it's nighttime and you're wearing all black, you're going to be difficult to spot. If you're walking after dark, try to wear white or bright colors, or stick a piece of reflective tape for runners on your jacket or bag to increase your visibility.
I know this can sometimes be a huge pain, but you should only cross the street using crosswalks whenever possible. Sometimes this is not feasible. At my work, for example, the inbound bus stop is located across the street from my building, and there is zero pedestrian infrastructure in the area: no sidewalk to be found, and certainly no crosswalk. I have no choice but to cross the street in the afternoons, and it's not always easy. When the proper pedestrian infrastructure is in place, however, you should always use the crosswalk rather than dashing across in an unmarked area.

Hopefully, when you're out walking, you're not the only person using the sidewalk. The golden rule is to keep to the right. If you're not already to the right and you come across other walkers or runners, then move over. If you're walking in a group and you approach other walkers, you should break up your group and move to the right to allow room for the other walker(s) to move past you. If everyone on the sidewalks follows this etiquette, everything should run smoothly for all.
Between this post and the last post, we run the risk of making it seem like being a pedestrian is scary, but it's really not. Walking is one of the safest forms of transportation, especially in a city with proper pedestrian infrastructure, but as with anything, there are steps that you can take to make it as safe as possible. Now that you know how to safely be a pedestrian, have fun and enjoy what naturally happens when you slow down and get a chance to notice the world around you. Keep your eyes peeled, pay attention, and go forth safely onto the sidewalks!

Do you have any pedestrian safety and etiquette tips that you'd like to share?


  1. On some busy streets in OKC like Lincoln Blvd. around the Capitol, there are crosswalks where there are no intersections or traffic lights. The street has several one way lanes. Sometimes when you are waiting at the crosswalk, a car in the near lane will stop and wave you across. DANGER! The car coming in the far lane will very likely not stop or even slow down. You as a pedestrian have to be really on your toes for this one. Drivers also "run" red lights, so even if the walk light is on, you can still get clobbered. Don't be "dead" right. Also be careful if you are crossing at an intersection with a "left turn" lane. I look back to make sure all the cars in that lane have made the turn. You can still get burned, because someone may decide at the last minute to switch lanes and make the turn after you have started to cross.
    There are etiquette issues with pedestrians and bikes also, but I don't always know what they are. In a more walkable city, attempts are made to get cars and pedestrians further apart. That takes planning and people who actually believe in walkability.

  2. I'm just echoing your great tips: Yes! Pay attention and be assertive. I've been pondering the need for pedestrian education as I travel by car on N. Lincoln and N.W. 16th almost every weekday and am happy to see pedestrians using the crosswalks. Oftentimes my attempts to yield the right-of-way are thwarted by pedestrians themselves because they aren't paying attention (read: face in phone).

    In order to maintain momentum for pedestrian infrastructure, I believe drivers need to be able to anticipate pedestrian behavior, and vice versa. Unfortunately, because of OKC's car culture, pedestrians anticipate that vehicles will not yield (and thus occupy themselves with the phone), and therefore reinforce common vehicle misbehavior by not asserting their right to safely cross the street.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog! Thanks for reminding me that one of my goals for the year is to ride the bus.