When you live in a city as exciting as New York, there is always somewhere to go. Normally when you’re trying to go from point a to point b, the only thing stopping you from getting there in a timely manner is the distance — and if you’re driving, the possibility of traffic.

However, when you are in cities like New York you have many other obstacles that stand in your way between where you are and where you want to go in the form of people — many other people. The problem is that a lot of these people simply don’t know how to properly walk — or they are so preoccupied with staring at every single tall building that they just can’t walk in a reasonable pace.

As a result, when one is trying to get somewhere in New York there is an entire obstacle course that rises up and the only way to get around it is to walk in a frequently zig-zagged manner.

Even more difficult is when you think you are walking behind someone who knows where they are going and the come to a complete stop in front of you without warning — this causes a nearly inevitable crash, sometimes with luggage involved and the wrong person being blamed for the accident. The wrong person, of course, is the person who didn’t come to a complete stop while walking along a busy sidewalk.

I would like to propose that we all accept an informal gawking and otherwise slow moving zone to the right of the purposeful walking zone — let the zones never meet! If you are going on a casual stroll, wanting to stare at every store window along the way, the slow moving zone is for you. If, on the other hand, you know exactly where you want to go and want to get there in a reasonable amount of time, the purposeful walking zone is for you.

Purposeful walking is exactly that — walking as though you have a purpose for doing so. One of the elements of purposeful walking is doing so in as straight of a line as possible. The shortest path between two points is a straight line, and therefore if you are walking in a purposeful manner you are mostly walking in a straight line. Combining this with the slow moving zone and I think you will find yourself getting places considerably sooner.

The other thing I would like to suggest is if you are walking somewhere and decide that you need to go somewhere else, the best way go to about it is absolutely never to completely stop. Rather, one needs to keep on walking but find a purposeful way to change direction. Causing a major backup on the sidewalk because you suddenly realize that you need to go somewhere else is just rude. Walk with purpose — or stick to the slow moving zone.


  1. Such a great article, Gordon!

    If you don’t live in a big city, I’m not sure if you’d get the idea you’re arguing, because the lack of “walking manners” is quite real.

    I don’t like the people who line up for the bus — when there’s no bus! They entirely block the sidewalk and since they don’t want to lose their place in line, they give you a hard time when you try to squeeze through their queue. Ridiculous!

    1. Too true, David. In some places in the city people will line up for the bus and hug up against the nearest building and not take up valuable walking space — as is the case on 34th near Broadway. In Britain, orderly lines are often formed but if I am not mistaken from my memory, they never get in the way of walking space.

      1. I wish we had the same decorum in Jersey City. Here, anything goes in the streets. People chase the dollar vans down the street from the sidewalk — and that means they rarely watch where they’re going.

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