One of the most unique cities in world history, New York is the center of modern culture, business, art and media. In a city with so much character and such a strong personality, there are bound to be some quirks as well, and the Big Apple certainly has those. The residents of the city have their own specific code of conduct, with surprising subtleties and peculiar etiquette for nearly every type of human action.
With such constantly large crowds in constant forward motion, many of the most meaningful and stringent of New York’s unwritten rules deal with transportation. While entire books could be dedicated to the many elements of the New Yorker code of conduct, few things are taken more seriously than the guidelines governing the sidewalks. They take walking seriously, and since it is the main mode of transportation for most of the city’s residents, it is easy to understand why.
It is also no surprise that those who are new to the city cannot begin to grasp the many intricacies of the sidewalk rules, and tourists are often guilty of many faux pas within the first few blocks. If you are planning your first trip to New York or if you have not been in some time, you would be well advised to brush up on some of the guidelines of the city sidewalks and how to walk properly. This guide is designed to do just that and help tourists walk like real New Yorkers.
Getting Around New York
There are many ways to get around the five boroughs of New York, and your mode of transportation may depend on several factors. Taxis, cars, buses and other traditional road vehicles are good for covering a long distance, but the infamous traffic of the city means that the journey may take a while. The subway is generally good for trips of any length, and it provides an affordable and speedy alternative to taxis. Bus and boat tours like those at Liberty Cruise in NYC are specifically designed to take tourists on the scenic route without the traffic hassle.
But for city residents, the majority of daily travel is done the old-fashioned way, on foot. Since everything is in a condensed area, and traffic is generally horrendous, the simplest, easiest and fastest way to reach destinations within a short to intermediate distance is to simply walk. With this being the preferred method of getting around, the sidewalks are almost alway busy and heavily crowded. To keep things from spiraling into complete chaos, New Yorkers developed some basic rules for walking within the city.
Think of It Like Driving
While a newcomer cannot be expected to know the more subtle aspects of sidewalk code, you can understand the basic concepts if you think of walking the sidewalks like driving on a road. Many of the rules are the same, and you should be able to avoid major mistakes by maintaining this mindset. For example:
- Always walk on the right side of the road. Slower traffic should stay to the right, and you should pass on the left.
- Do not stop abruptly on the sidewalk.
- Do not text and walk. This also goes for taking photos or any other distracting phone activity.
Follow the Crowd
It should be easy to tell if you are doing something incorrectly because everyone else will be doing something different. Also, if your walking behavior is truly unacceptable, New Yorkers will not hesitate to let you know. The best way thing you can do is follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. This is also true for most other elements of fitting in and acting like a true New Yorker during your visit.