Sidewalk etiquette for social distancing - GulfToday

Sidewalk etiquette for social distancing

walk social distance1

Photo has been used for illustrative purpose only. TNS

Not a lot of streets and sidewalks are designed for walking. Some may be too narrow to maintain a 6 foot buffer when people pass one another.

Since the threat of coronavirus has made a seemingly simple navigation so much more complex, it is recommended that walkers use kindness and common sense and watch the “sidewalk rage.”

The pedestrian equivalent of road rage, which has been documented by University of Hawaii researchers, found that roughly 20 per cent of respondents said they reacted to an interference by expressing anger to the person who caused the incident.

Following a few simple guidelines for sidewalk etiquette should help improve the experience on city sidewalks or parkland trails.

Before you go plan your route: Select less-travelled routes when possible, avoiding the city lakes and rivers, as well as other popular areas with natural amenities. Better to walk in residential neighbourhoods around where you live, or to explore other less-busy areas farther afield.


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Be aware: Pay attention to people you’re going to encounter half a block ahead and those coming up behind you. Be especially mindful if you’re on your phone or have earbuds in. This isn’t really the time for deep thinking or daydreaming during walks.

When encountering others give a sign of acknowledgment: A quick hello, head nod or smile is a good way to start.

Scoot over: There’s no need to invent a new set of hand signals to indicate your intentions. Just move over as soon as you see someone approaching. Cross to the other side of the street as soon as you notice another party coming your way.

Make room if you can: Able-bodied folks who are in relatively good health and spry enough to go jogging have a responsibility to make sure that they are not inconveniencing people with more mobility challenges.

Forget the hierarchy: Should a parent pushing a stroller move over for a child learning to bike? Don’t bother engaging in a complex calculus of whose needs trump whose, just get out of the way. It doesn’t matter who it is coming at you, how physically able they are, who they are, what they’re doing. Do it for everybody.

Queue up and hush up: If you’re in a group, get into single file as you pass others. Extend the courtesy even further and stop talking as you pass. While a brief foray through someone else’s airspace constitutes a low risk for virus transmission, closing your mouth can be a sign of respect.

Joggers should hit the streets: Heavy breathing by runners can disperse aerosols further, increasing the chance of spreading infection and making those around them anxious. Mask-less runners, especially, should consider eschewing the sidewalks for low-traffic streets.

When conflicts arise, don’t scold: If a cyclist is riding cautiously through a nearly empty pedestrian parkway, there’s really no need to scold them. Neighbours congregating on the sidewalk to chat may not realise they’re blocking the walking lane — cut them some slack.

Say “Excuse me”: If you have limited mobility and someone’s in your way, politely ask for space. Say something like, “Excuse me, I’m social-distancing,’?” in a light-hearted tone.

Keep walking: If another person makes a rude comment about your sidewalk etiquette or social-distancing practices, just ignore the remarks. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they riled you up. Don’t give them your energy. Life’s too short. You don’t have to always respond. Just notice it for what it is and keep moving.

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