Invasion of the mall walkers? (NY Times)
July 16, 2002 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Invasion of the mall walkers? (NY Times) New Yorkers may well have seen this story about sidewalk etiquette on the front page of the metro section today, but I wonder 1) if other cities experience the same phenomenon and 2) if other New Yorkers have noticed this marked increase in sudden stoppers and other sidewalk amateurs.
posted by lackutrol (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
God yes. Central London on a weekend is a nightmare - why do people who don't live here walk so slowly? Pavements should be divided into lanes, and we should all be made to wear hats with indicators.
posted by calico at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2002

from TMN's Guide to Urban Etiquette:
"Be mindful that others on the street are trying to get someplace - fast; and also be aware that they should assume that you're trying to get someplace - fast. This is why people on the streets of New York walk so quickly. It's the 'quickly' part that aids the 'fast' part. So step quickly, sirs and madams."
posted by panopticon at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2002

"I can't stand when people are standing at the corner talking to their friends or rubbernecking," she said. "I'm like: 'Why don't you move?'"

This, right here, is the reason I don't live in NYC anymore.

"You! How dare you interact with another human being in a public space! I'm walking here! I'm walking here!"
posted by ook at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2002

Except for a-hole cyclists, the foot problem pales in comparision to subway louts, especially those who keep packs on their back. Encountering one of those brings me to the verge of yelling and violence.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:06 PM on July 16, 2002

I work in NYC, and for the most part this kind of stuff doesn't bother me, you have to accept that NY is what it is.... EXCEPT when it happens in the subway, specifically when people make a dead stop right in the middle of the stairs when a train is on the platform. THAT makes me absolutely psycho.
posted by lilboo at 2:11 PM on July 16, 2002

(sorry for the tangent, but it's what anger me today).
posted by ParisParamus at 2:12 PM on July 16, 2002

Holy-freaking-I'm-so-glad-I-don't-live-in-New-York-COW! This is the worst thing I've ever read. Why don't they go ahead and talk about those that can't walk quickly because of a disablity. Or, ever worse, someone in a wheelchair. Get a damn life. This is one of the worst cases of `my rights are absolutly more important than those around me ' that I have seen. Sheesh (he says as he walks off SLOWLY, shaking his head)
posted by tayknight at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2002

Tayknight: in a world where most people don't have cars, walking assumes great importance.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:21 PM on July 16, 2002

Tayknight: in a world where most people don't have cars, walking assumes great importance.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:21 PM on July 16, 2002

my rights are absolutly more important than those around me

That attitude could equally describe those who meander slowly and aimlessly around the sidewalk, with no consideration for those around them.

It's one thing to be slow because you have a disability when you're aware of it and stay out of other's way in consideration for them, it's another to block up the sidewalk and not give a damn.
posted by dnash at 2:27 PM on July 16, 2002

Mall walkers are indeed frustrating. A slow group of chatty individuals mucking up the whole system. It happens a lot here in Chicago. Though tempted to say something to these offenders, I usually just make a show of walking around them - a procedure which inevitably involves venturing into the street.

Imagine how much better our lives will be when we all have Segways . . .
posted by aladfar at 2:28 PM on July 16, 2002

I go through the mall walkers...
posted by websavvy at 2:33 PM on July 16, 2002

"You! How dare you interact with another human being in a public space! I'm walking here! I'm walking here!"

I believe the person quoted meant "talking to their friends or rubbernecking while blocking the sidewalk."

The reason out-of-towners walk around NYC like morons is because they've been stricken with the idea that New York City is some kind of Disneyland. Everyone else is an actor put there for their amusement and the streets are a carefully constructed mini-world. So they walk five-abreast down Seventh Avenue in Times Square at a Sunday-leaving-church pace, talking loudly about the other people they see around them as if they can't hear.

The facts of the city, not just about walking:

On moving sidewalks and escalators, "walk on the left, stand on the right" is unknown to virtually all Americans except those in a hurry.

That precognitive ability to judge when the other person will turn, deviate or otherwise get out of your way is acquired by practice, not genetics.

When crossing the street, don't follow the person in front of you or walk according to the lights. Watch the cars.

Any delay in getting up stairs is likely to be caused by someone at the top pausing to light a cigarette or check a amp.

The loudest person in a subway car is the stupidest one there.

Outside of those with disabilities caused by age or infirmity, walking unecessarily slowly is a sure sign of other personal problems.

This is the worst thing I've ever read. Phhhht. Look, if it takes me 12 seconds longer to walk down the street than it would without out-of-town zombies, 5 times a day, that's 60 seconds wasted each day. That's 30 minutes a month or about 6 hours a year. Multiply that by my billable rate and you owe me a lot of goddammed money. I've seen the sights and the sites, smelled the roses, and now I've got things to do.
posted by TurkeyMustard at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2002

Tayknight: If you have a disability in this city, you have bigger problems than just the insensitivity of NYC walkers. Most of the subway stations are not accessible for the disabled, and those that are, in my opinion, are highly inefficient in speed and design. (Buses are usually no better, in the speed dept. especially.) I was disabled temporarily last year, and getting around was possibly THE most frustrating aspect of my condition. Sidewalks were a treat in comparison.
posted by lilboo at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2002

Check a map.
posted by TurkeyMustard at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2002

Time to call in Joey Skaggs:
"The Guardian Angels have the subways, we want the streets." So said Joseph Virgil Skaggs (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), street vigilante, who, with his gang of black-clad commandos wearing WALK RIGHT! sweatshirts, patrolled the streets to get signatures on a petition to institute 66 rules of street etiquette. In a case of life imitating art, many of Guardian Angels` founder Curtis Sliwa`s tales of heroism turned out to be made up.
posted by ceiriog at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2002

A slow group of chatty individuals mucking up the whole system

I guess I'm having trouble understanding the viewpoint that the sidewalk is a superhighway and if you pause to dawdle you are somehow inconsiderate of others. Some of the comments in the article sound like the NY equivalent of LA road rage.

To me the sidewalk is also a public space.

If someone is intentionally blocking the sidewalk to annoy others then sure they should be censured. But sometimes people are just lost in their own world, enjoying their friends, having a romantic moment, being lost tourists in a strange new place or have just paused to admire a building. Maybe the rest of the world should just slow down.

Multiply that by my billable rate and you owe me a lot of goddammed money

I should add that I worked as a consultant in Manhattan for a couple years. I felt it was my job to plan ahead. Sometimes subways dont show up on time. Sometimes theres parades in the street. Its part of the pageantry and color of life - efficiency is boring.

The attitude of 'you're wasting my time' reminds me more of those cars that switch lanes and rush ahead of you in traffic when you dont move fast enough at a green light - inevitably you catch up to them at the next stoplight. What was accomplished? Nothing. They are just working out some misplaced rage.
posted by vacapinta at 2:47 PM on July 16, 2002

Imagine how much better our lives will be when we all have Segways . . .

I'm holding out for the rocket launcher add-on.

This is also an issue of awareness; of know what is going on around you and acting accordingly. Some days I'm slow but I also have an eye peeled for anybody wanting to get around me. Seems to work just fine. Other days, I'm that bastard who's trying to get around you and your gaggle of friends clogging up the sidewalk.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:48 PM on July 16, 2002

We have an analogous situation where I live. The city is choked with highways, so instead of walking everybody, and I mean everybody drive. People have to get on and off the highway, and some people only need to go a couple of exits, while others are on their way through without a stop.

The normal system is, or at least should be, just like an escalator. The slow drivers need to stay to the right, or at least out of the left lane, because that's where I, and the others with a long commute, cruise. However, there is inevitably some nimrod puttering along at ten mph below the speed limit. I understand that it's not intentional and there's no malice involved, but jeez, buddy, get a clue.

On the other hand, there are those--as vacapinta referred to--that are at the other extreme. These guys are all over the slower drivers, gas, brake, gas, brake, gas, brake. That certainly causes more traffic problems than it solves, and they don't get there any faster than anyone else.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:57 PM on July 16, 2002

KevinSkomsvold, you can't have a Segway rocket launcher until I get one for my car.

Look, even I know not to walk slowly, or on the left side of the sidewalk, and I hate walking so much I'd drive my car to the bathroom if I could fit it in the hallway. There's a generally-accepted speed for walking, just like there is for driving (regardless of the speed limit) that varies depending on locale. In New York City, it's pretty darned quick. Salt Lake City? Take your time. You'll pretty much have the whole sidewalk to yourself anyway.

monju_bosatsu, that nimrod puttering away at ten under the speed limit is exactly the situation that calls for my bumper-mounted rocket launcher.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:01 PM on July 16, 2002

It is impossible to walk down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in the summertime without hitting a wall of tourists. I usually just pick a different street; if they don't recognize the street name, they don't walk on it -- big dangerous city, you know.
posted by me3dia at 3:11 PM on July 16, 2002

Well then, I guess I can spend my tourist dollars somewhere else where they don't mind if my husband and I take a moment or two to enjoy the scenery. Maybe New Yorkers have seen all the sites and admired all the buildings, but the rest of the world hasn't.
posted by Orb at 4:18 PM on July 16, 2002

I live a stone's throw from Times Square and have learned to simply weave around people, walk into the street, around vendors -- whatever I need to do to get away from the crush of humanity and onward. Just like driving, you need to learn to anticipate who's going to be a problem on the road (sidewalk) and plan accordingly.
posted by nstop at 4:23 PM on July 16, 2002

me3dia, you're totally right about Michigan Avenue. I work near there, and it can be a pain getting to the bus stop sometimes. I do, however, cut the tourists some slack as the Mag Mile is essentially a huge shopping mall, so I can somewhat forgive them all for slowly window shopping. There's a difference between tourists and clueless tourists, though.
posted by dnash at 4:41 PM on July 16, 2002

I find the corner situation especially true in San Francisco. While visitors are always welcome to San Francisco, many of them become overwhelmed by the hills and decide to stop at the crest of every hill to catch their breath. While oxygen in general is good, blocking the sidewalk to get it usually causes a pile up of the other Sherpas looking to crest the peak.
posted by songoku1 at 4:43 PM on July 16, 2002

Well then, I guess I can spend my tourist dollars somewhere else where they don't mind if my husband and I take a moment or two to enjoy the scenery. Maybe New Yorkers have seen all the sites and admired all the buildings, but the rest of the world hasn't.

Oh, boo hoo. Would you complain if gawkers parked their car in the middle of the street in your town? WE WALK here. The sidewalks are our roads. The roads exist only for cabs, trucks, and bridge and tunnel folks. Would you be sympathetic to people who parked perpendicular to traffic in front of your driveway?
posted by anildash at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2002

There's a difference between standing in an out-of-the-way spot on the sidewalk and things like blocking the middle of the sidewalk, stopping suddenly, etc. It's just being aware of your surroundings and being considerate of people who are trying to get where they need to go. Two of my pet peeves: people who stop in the middle of shop doorways, and rubberband couples (who can't abide being more than seven feet apart, and when they drift that far apart they snap suddenly back together).
posted by kirkaracha at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2002

god. en route to a meeting today at michigan and wacker (chicago), i whaled some idiot tourist who stopped in the center of the sidewalk in front of me to take a picture. never mind that she had turned to look at me once and had to have noticed the portfolio, poster tube, and second portfolio slung over my back. like i enjoy slamming into people with thirty pounds of art strapped to my body? get a clue.
posted by patricking at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2002

"little time murderers, with tiny-tiny knives..."

As I found out long ago, there's a way out of this, whatever the city.
As websavvy suggested, you go right trough the catatonics looking at them strait in the eyes. You don't have to be large, but a bit of psycho look help a lot (long black jacket, pony tail and beard cut a la "Messerine"). It works all the time. The only downside: you'll get asked for drugs, but I can live with that.
posted by kush at 5:30 PM on July 16, 2002

I have similar problems with people blocking the way, only it's in the building where I work. 5 or 6 people who form a large circle across the hallway to discuss something, leaving me to walk through them because there's no way to walk behind them. Walking up the stairs, I encounter three people in a horizontal line walking down the stairs, who make no move to clear a path and sometimes glare at me as if it's my fault they're taking up all the room.

And while I'm at it, what's with men who won't get out of the elevator until I do, only they're at the front of the elevator, and I'm at the back, and I can't move until they do, but they won't move? Politeness is all very well, and I don't have a problem with politeness based on gender, but I'm not staying in the elevator all morning for it.
posted by JanetLand at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2002

I just need to vent about something: walk left stand right. There are signs on the escalators. Signs that say this. So why stand left? Why????? WHY???

I live in North Vancouver and taking a commuter ferry into downtown. Big escalator to get off the pier, and some idiot - working person, not tourist - stands left gabbing away.

And do you know what that person talks about? How in NY they couldn't believe how rude people were on the subways and sidewalks.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:46 PM on July 16, 2002

On the subject of effective driving, in my time as a pizza delivery boy I learned a number of useful skills which I will now pass on to you all. :)

(1) Drive in a state of high alert. Always watch what the cars around you are doing. Read the indicators ahead of you. If you're approaching a group of cars most of which are indicating left, there's probably some problem in the right lane. If someone's slowing down and moving to one side, chances are they're looking for a turn or a place to park. And so on. Normally people are doing something that makes sense to them. That said, don't do stuff that will get your car damaged if another person doesn't maintain a certain definite line of behavior.

(2) Expedite the traffic. Always indicate, let people in, leave space, etc etc. The faster people blocking you can get to their destinations, the faster you get to yours.

(3) The heavier the vehicle, the slower it takes off. The car/heavy vehicle take-off ratio is approximately 5:1; it's better to be behind five cars at a stoplight than one bus. The exception to this rule is the unladen truck, which might take off like there's a rocket under it, it's an each-way bet :).

(4) When you're at the stoplights, watch the perpendicular light; when it goes red, yours is just about to go green.

(5) Know your car's exact dimensions and braking distance. If you don't know them yet, go out to a deserted country road and experiment. Get a friend to walk around your car, touching its sides, while you're in the driver's seat watching them.

(6) Maintain the maximum practical distance from cars ahead of and behind you. Tolerate no tailgaters; learn to tap the brake to scare them into backing off.

(7) Never stop less than four feet from a car in front of you on the up side of a hill.

(8) Never try to drag off a taxi driver or a pizza guy. Especially if you are one.

(9) SUV drivers are the second worst drivers in the world. Give them twice the space you'd give a sensible person and evade them whenever possible. Never allow an SUV behind you at night, as their headlights are designed to shine directly into your rear-view mirror. If you drive an SUV now, wake the #$%@ up and get yourself a normal-sized car like a decent person would drive. The only worse drivers are plumber/builder types who drive tray-back utilities, who are physically incapable of indicating their own intentions or anticipating the intentions of other drivers, and normally have a dog, a wheelbarrow, a cement mixer, and/or a pile of planks sticking out of the tray-back just waiting to fall through your windscreen. Overtake them ASAP, and if you can't, give them two car-lengths' gap.

(10) Maintain a cruising speed of exactly 1 km/h (or m/h) above the speed limit, no less, no more. Learn to do this around corners and up hills (acceleration is the key). It's not worth exceeding the speed limit except to get out of trouble, and dropping below the speed limit without an obvious reason confuses and annoys other drivers.

(11) Never, ever, confuse or annoy other drivers. Especially cops. Bringing yourself to the attention of the cops in any way, for any reason, is a bad thing. When there are cops around, you are one gray person in a gray crowd. Drive like it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:43 PM on July 16, 2002

Good advice, me3dia. Don't venture into the Loop much (commute to UIC everyday), but when I do, I'll remember to avoid Michigan Ave. during the day.
posted by hobbes at 10:46 PM on July 16, 2002

I really have to say yay to NYC walking rules. Pedestrians are king here in Manhattan. If you are one of the people who don't get our frustration with bad walkers you very well may be part of the problem. Walkign in NYC is not about you, it is about everyone staying out of each others' way. Pull over to the side if you want to stop!

I live on 34th and 3rd in Manhattan. I work right off Times Square, which is the most annoying place to walk as a NYC resident, period.

It takes me 22-25 minutes to walk the mile to and from work. This is my commute. I have my version of the car stereo (my iPod and dink radio), I've got my version of the car (my $200 Birkenstock shoes) and my version of aggressive driving: I walk faster than anyone on the sidewalk, I pass, I swerve but I never, ever get in anyone's way.

Now put yourself in my place. I'm walking down 34th toward 6th/Bway... arguably one of the most crowded sidewalks in the country, but very fast because of the width... about 30'. I'm almost to 6th ave and suddenly there is a huge crowd of people all backed up. Huge, like more people than Joe suburban might see in a whole day. Why? Because right where the subway entrance makes the sidewalk 10' narrower _and_ the newspaper stand pinches it down to maybe 6' wide... right there a Diesel wearing 20 year old guy is talking to a Prada girl. They both have their elbows sticking out and are standing all cool and angular-- completely blocking the sidewalk! The people can't step around on the road because there is a line of busses waiting to get to the bus stop. So like most of 200 people (really!) are all pushing to get through a one person wide space. And when I pass by them I say "Hey! look! you guys are totally in the way," and the girl looks at me and says "f*ck off." So there you go.

I won't even go into the five-seven-even-10-abreast walkers. Sometimes they have matching shirts. Or the fifteen minutes it takes to walk by the MTV studios when Carson is on. It is often more than a person can take. Some rules would be nice.

Can you imagine what it would be like if half the people on the road on YOUR commute drove like they were stoned out of their minds? Every day? forever? Wouldn't that make you frustrated? Our sidewalks are out roads. Walking is a novelty to many folks from out of town but it is serious here.

Oh, and re: NYC sidewalks as a public place... guess what? No matter what myth you hold to be true regarding tourism here get over it. This is *our* city first... we live here -- don't disrupt things. The sidewalks are for us first. You have no idea what it would be like if all the visitors acted as badly as about 5% of them do. This isn't Washington DC, where huge areas of space are set aside for tourists. Manhattan's public resources are used by the _residents_ much more intensely than in any other urban area of the US, so when you visit us keep that in mind and blend in and try to stay out of the way -- that's what we all do.
posted by n9 at 10:50 PM on July 16, 2002

My hometown is packed right now with the most god-almighty rude tourists from NYC, and Boston, and Chicago, and other places. I can't wait for it to be winter so they all go home.

I'll never understand - why do people who don't live here walk so slowly? I guess part of the reason out-of-towners walk around Portland like morons is because they've been stricken with the idea that Maine is some kind of Disneyland. Everyone else is an actor put there for their amusement and the streets are a carefully constructed quaint New England mini-world. So they walk five-abreast down Congress Street at a Sunday-leaving-church pace, talking loudly about the other people they see around them as if they can't hear. And saying really stupid and ignorant things, I might add ("Its amazing what good English they all speak up here" "I never knew that they caught Lobsters in a boat like that"). These ill-dressed city-bred touristas meander slowly and aimlessly around the sidewalk, with no consideration for those around them. It is impossible to walk down Exchange Street in the summertime without hitting a wall of tourists. I mean, c'mon, this is *our* city first... we live here -- don't disrupt things. The sidewalks are for us first.

Sorry about the plagiarism - I do, actually, have a point. Tourists are tourists no matter where you go. Tourists from Maine walk slowly and rudely in NYC, and tourists from NYC walk slowly and rudely in Maine. They're in a new place, on vacation, seeing things they've never seen before, perhaps lost - or at least uncertain where they are or where they're going to end up. In spite of the fact that everything in the rant above (plagiarism or not) is true, there is one thing I can do to get back at the NYC tourists in particular ... look them straight in the eye, smile, and nod 'Hello' as I walk past. Locals will smile and nod back. NYC tourists can immediately be identified because they get this weird, half-scared, half-"what a strange native custom" look in their eyes. Its fun, and can make up for the fact that I just almost got hit by a Vespa stepping out into the street to go around a pack of them.
posted by anastasiav at 11:23 PM on July 16, 2002

I live in a small town that's flooded with tourists during the summer. One of the streets has a sidewalk that is both a walkway and a bike path. The sidewalk provides a nice view of the ocean and the oppurtunity for a pleasant walk or ride. All along the path there are signs saying "Keep Right" and other signs indicating that it's a bike path. I'm always suprised by the number of people that ignore the various signs and gum up the path. Ringing bells or shouting out "passing on the left" just confuses them and causes them to jump randomly into or out of your way. By the way, it's very dangerous to ride in the street along this sidewalk because there are bozos in cars driving the same way the bozos are walking.
posted by rdr at 4:09 AM on July 17, 2002

The fifth rule of walking, according to the article, is Don't Be a Heel Stepper. The last time I was in NYC I was wearing glorified flip-flops, and I walked one block with the same tailgating woman behind me. She stepped on the back of my heel twice, and the 3rd time she did it she drew blood. She had nasty, shiny, pointy shoes on, they looked like black leather bayonets. As if she was just waiting to gouge some flesh out of the back of someone's foot. It was like something straight out of Slaughterhouse Five, I'm telling you.
posted by iconomy at 5:23 AM on July 17, 2002

short stoppers are scary. in London i always ended up in the tube escalators behind some dolt couple that stopped immediately at the end of the escalator. Nonono! Get off *walking*! scene changed to them being the pins and everyone else on the escalator acted as bowling balls.

That's what mallwalking is. It's not cruising slowly hand in hand with loved one out of the way of the general hubbub. Keep to the right (window shopper lane), and everything will be fine. Stop and read your maps take in the view smell the roses, whatever, it is actually possible to do without being in the way.
posted by dabitch at 6:10 AM on July 17, 2002

Thanks for bringing up my city, n9. The Disney analogy is strong here, but it's not just on the sidewalks. I can't count the number of times I've seen people stop their cars in the middle of the freakin' road to get out and take a picture. Or, what's worse, really, driving v e r y s l o w l y down the street to get a good view.

Pedestrians walking down the Mall forget that there are cross streets, and just wander out into the road in total obilivion. And there's a certain aura of entitlement to the tourists, too, that this is their city, their Capital, so they can walk however they damn please. You get the tourist father who's there to show his tourist kids that he's not intimidated by big-city traffic, oh no, he'll cross the street at whatever pace he sees fit, maybe the rest of the world should just slow down, indeed. I got pulled over by the DC cops for laying down on my horn at such a group who began self-righteously crossing the street after my light turned green.

GAAH. It's a real city, folks, with real people who have real jobs, driving real cars that will kill you, really, if you step off that curb with no warning. Yes, tourists are welcome here, please, give us your dollars, but walk here like you'd do at home. Give us residents the same respect you'd like us to give you when we visit you, that's all.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:11 AM on July 17, 2002

Black hat walkers. Those walkers who know the rules and know how upset it makes the white hats and so purposefully get in the way causing problems just as a means of entertainment to see how pissed off they can make those around them. When I see white hats saying they walk through mall walkers, think of the black hats.
posted by stbalbach at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2002

I walk through black hat walkers too...
I'm 6 feet, 230 pounds. I'm not sure why they do it. Maybe they've lost their will to live.
posted by websavvy at 9:07 AM on July 17, 2002

It had never occured to me that other people on the sidewalks might be anything other than confused and unpredictable. I just assume people are going to get in my way, stop suddenly, clog up the sidewalk, gawk at the buildings, etc., so it doesn't bother me when they do. I just keep my eyes open and route around the obstacles. It had never crossed my mind to be bothered by it, actually, or to think that there is something wrong with people who aren't walking along as purposefully as I am.

It's like driving: you just assume that the other drivers are all half-blind morons with a three-second attention span.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2002

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