Spring has finally sprung in New York. The blossoms on the trees are opening, the air is warm, the sky is blue and bright. The streets are crawling with tourists. Literally, crawling. I watch these visitors, sometimes with a smile, but other times with alarm. Some look so frightened to be thrust into the busy streets, moving cautiously and making it even harder to get around.
I see them meandering their way across town, often watching, in amazement, the throngs of New Yorkers scurrying around and by them. “What’s the rush?”, they wonder. “Where’s the fire?” “Why are New Yorkers always in such a hurry?” For these visitors, and also for recent transplants, I offer some advice. With a different mindset, it can easily become manageable.
A Visitors’s Guide to Walking in New York City.
New York sidewalks are our highways. At home, you probably get into your cars and SUVs every day and drive with speed and haste to the maul (Yes, that’s how I spell it.), to the groomers (yours or your pets), to school or other activities. There is somewhere to go and you move swiftly towards it, wanting nothing in your way, no detours, no unnecessary stops, no distractions. You would no more entertain the thought of driving at five miles an hour to gaze at the scenery, or stop and smell the roses while driving, than miss a sale at the maul. And, if you find yourselves behind a slow driver on the highway, beware the road rage!
In New York, our feet are our cars. They’re our primary source of transportation. Our mindset is the same as your’s when barreling down the highway. In my view, the same rules should apply on city sidewalks.
- Slow travelers should stay to the right, allowing room for passing peds.
- Don’t hog the sidewalks. Avoid the Mother-Father-Sister-Brother walk – 4 people walking side-by-side, moving slowly, holding hands.
- Unexpected short stops with a throng of people behind you can be dangerous…almost the same as making a short stop in the middle lane on I-95.
- Pull over to the side to check a map, look something up in a guidebook or make a phone call.
- Avoid pile-ups and blocking intersections. I’ve never seen anyone successfully hail a cap while standing still on the sidewalk corner while others are trying to cross the street around them.
- While I’m on cabs, the ones with all the roof lights on are available, no lights means passengers are inside and side lights means the cabs are Off Duty. And please look around to see if someone was there first with their arms up and has first dibs. (Who saw the parking spot first kinda thing.) Our road rage!
- At any time of day or night, many New Yorkers are on their way to an appointment and are not going to stop while you take a picture with a new camera you haven’t yet learned to use. Be aware of the foot traffic around you, or master Photo Shop and filter us out when you get home.
On a related note, when you’re inside and use escalators, the same rules apply. Stay to your right, leave room for people to pass on your left and don’t stop at the bottom to decide which way to turn. People are coming off the steps behind you.
Your stay in New York will be more pleasant – for you and for us – if you learn to, if not move with the flow, to navigate around it. The City is an exciting and beautiful place to visit. Don’t let ‘navigation stress’ ruin your stay. Enjoy…and bring comfortable shoes!