Sidewalk Etiquette.

Five Thôt columnist Laura Zander is a book nerd on a perpetual quest to satiate her curiosity and observe the magic of juxtapositions. A veteran of the tech world, she's widely acknowledged as a product, marketing, and operations guru. You can follow her reading life at or @lz

The city dweller is faced with many daily challenges and dangers - public transportation delays, unspeakable items to keep feet clear of, harangues by the mentally ill. But perhaps the most common and insidious are inexcusably bad sidewalk manners.

Double barrelled baby strollers with shrieking kids and distracted moms. Twin strollers with a dog on leash and dad ogling his phone as he balances coffee in the other hand. Walking four abreast. Refusing to cede the right-of-way (“Walk on the right, please. The RIGHT. No, the OTHER RIGHT.”). Walking on the left while your leashed dog sniffs a building on the right. Skateboarders on the sidewalk. Bicycles on the sidewalk. Segways on the sidewalk. 

There are also inattentive smokers waving lit cigarettes around. Walking in one direction but looking in another. Strangers who keep the same pace as you (“Hi! Are we walking together now?”). People who follow too closely. The inability to walk a straight line. Shufflers (“Pick up your feet!”). Sudden stops. Dawdling tourists. 

Humbly, I now find myself guilty of poor sidewalk etiquette, having recently acquired the habit of reading a book while walking to work. It is surprisingly possible to read and be spatially aware of your surroundings. Every so often you glance up to ensure that there are no landmines ahead, and for the most part oncoming walkers give you a wide berth. Reading a physical book makes all the difference - if I were engrossed by my phone, the chances of being jostled or spat upon skyrocket. Yet another vote for the continued survival of physical books.

Why have I undertaken this ridiculous behavior? Efficiency of time, mostly. I enjoy invigorating walks and I’m an avid reader, so combining the two seemed to make sense. My pace has slowed a bit, but I’m able to devour books more quickly. And there’s something lovely about bringing books out into the open, reminding non-readers of what they’re missing, flashing covers at people like gang signs (“What up, Schopenhauer? Holla!”). A local street artist flagged me down to say how wonderful it was to see someone reading, so maybe this isn’t the worst breach of conduct. 

What kind of sidewalk shenanigans have you witnessed?
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