Remaining Etiquette-ful When
Out for a Walk

Pedestrians on a Busy Street

Looking down on a plaza from the tenth floor of a Kansas City hotel room, the sidewalks and closed-off street areas were buzzing with people.  It looked peacefully chaotic with everyone on their way to some destination.   
From my view – ten floors above – the navigation of all those pedestrians looked easy and natural.  While practice may make this true, I also know there are many rules in place to help keep you civil and safe when out for a walk.

General Rules

Going out for a pleasure walk, walking to work, hiking on a narrow trail – with or without someone else – comes with guidelines and unwritten rules to help you enjoy your time out, be efficient, and get to your destination in one piece, while maintaining the mood of common courtesy. 
The general rule here in the United States:  keep to the right and pass on the left, exactly as if one were driving.  Instead of using a blinker, a walker passes another first with a “signal to pass,” which is a kind, “Excuse me,” or “On your left.”  
After passing someone, allow several steps ahead of them before moving back to the right and in front of them.  Personal space is still valued even when moving.   
On sidewalks and other public walkways, people will be close to you and you may have to make sudden decisions to avoid bumping into something or someone.  

  • Stay mindful and off your phone as you will be moving in and out among others, gauging their movement without bumping into them or pushing up against them.  
  • Taking up too much space creates challenges for everyone. Be careful of bags or pull cases.  There is only so much room and all of it is shared space. 
  • Speaking of space, go single file when you’re with someone on a crowded walkway.  Groups of people should break into two’s and three’s, but always make room for on-coming walkers. 
  • If you are with someone and talking, keep your arms and elbows close-in to avoid hitting a passer-by.  
  • If it’s raining, position your umbrella upward without tilting it.
  • And always, stay alert to the sounds and circumstances of where you are.  

If you choose to use wheels to move a little faster on walkways, remember that pedestrians have the right of way when it comes to scooters, skateboards and, of course, bicycles.

Etiquette Tips When Going Out for a Walk

While the general rules of walking in public spaces make up the bulk of practicing civility when out and about, there are also etiquette-ful common sense guidelines that help in specific situations.
Gender rules?  Your choice.

  • Traditionally, a man walks on the side closest to the curb.   (This hearkens back to the day of women’s long skirts and a gentleman’s desire to shield her from being splashed on from horse-drawn buggies and traffic, generally.) 
  • Today, these gender rules no longer apply – unless they do!  Traditions can be enjoyed if both people agree they are pleasant. 

 Joggers beware!

  • Joggers should stay to the left, and it’s always polite to warn walkers that you are coming up “On your left.”
  • Though getting the miles in, patience is always required of joggers. 
  • Walkers might not realize that they are sharing the sidewalk or path with you.  But it’s not a good idea to pass them on the right because, if they are startled, they may move to the right as part of habit’s conditioning and increase the chance of a collision. 
  • “Excuse me,” are pleasant words to a walker’s ear.

Walking with Pets

  • For the safety of your pet and other people, keep your pet on a leash.  Animals and people are too unpredictable to take much risk.
  • Avoid using a mobile device while walking your pet.  Particularly in high traffic areas.  Your pet deserves your undivided attention.

Eating and walking

  • Everyone is busy and often in a rush.  But consider the hazards of eating while walking hurriedly.  Dropping or spilling food is much more likely.  As is the likelihood of tripping or bumping into someone.  
  • If you must eat and walk – hopefully only on a leisurely walk – consider disposing of food, wrappers, and utensils appropriately.  Otherwise, carry these items to your destination and dispose of them there.  

Selfies on the walkway?

  • Who doesn’t like a selfie now and then?  But if it’s impulsive, stop and consider your location.  A selfie is always secondary to the safety and respect of others.
  • Selfie sticks and tripods are terrific gadgets, but again, consider your safety and the respect of others.  There may be times when it’s best to simply use your camera or camera phone without a gadget.   

There’s nothing like taking a break from work or from the trials of the day and going out for a walk!  Being etiquette-ful means that you realize others may be doing the same thing, so you remain aware, polite, and alert to avoid possible collisions.  
Walk like you drive – carefully.  Take note of prohibitions and use good manners to help with the rest.

You may also enjoy reading . . .