Eight Rules of the Road for Being a Polite Pedestrian

We’ve recently covered the rules for being a better biker and not driving like a douchebag. But what about pedestrians? After all, wacky walkers can be traffic hazards, too, committing violations — of either legal regulations, common sense, or both — every day. So here are our eight rules of the road for polite pedestrians:
8. Don’t jaywalk
Jaywalking laws directly address pedestrians, even though it's been some time since Denver vigorously enforced the rules — like the 1950s, when chewing gum could get you detention, and the World Wide Web would have been a horror flick about a giant planet-eating spider. But the fact is: You're not supposed to cross in the middle of the street. And even if a cop doesn't ticket you, there's another deterrent: Knowing that if you get hit and killed, it’ll be your own dumbass fault.

7. Be careful crossing the street anywhere
Even if you’re at the crosswalk, there’s a walk signal, and you have plenty of time to get across the street — proceed with caution.  Look both ways, even if you’re not a kid anymore. This is especially important during the winter months, or anytime inclement weather causes adverse road conditions. You might have the right of way, but like my grandma used to say: You can be totally in the right, and still be just as dead.

6. Use the sidewalks
Bikes aren’t supposed to use them (with minimal exceptions), cars can only cross them while entering a marked parking lot or alley, and many jurisdictions even keep skateboarders and the like off sidewalks. And it's all for your better walking experience, pedestrians. So don’t look a gift horse in the mouth: Use the sidewalks. Appreciate them. They’re a privilege that you probably take for granted.

5. Walk against traffic
Unlike the rules for bicycles, the general advice for pedestrians is that they walk against the direction of traffic when there’s no sidewalk — and some experts say that even if you have sidewalks on both sides of the street, stick to walking against traffic. If you can see what’s coming, you can better avoid it — and when it comes to dodging vehicles, people on foot still have the superior maneuverability. If you see what’s coming, you can take advantage of that fact — which is sometimes the difference between a close call and a trip to the hospital.

Keep reading for four more rules for pedestrians.

4. Don't hog the space
Sidewalks are for everyone, not just for you. Unless you’re a trio of thirteen-year-olds, don’t walk three abreast and take up the whole walk. (Not that it’s okay for young teens; it’s just that the rest of us are used to that kind of thoughtless behavior.) And if you need a stroller, please don’t buy the Humvee of strollers; consider that you won’t always have four feet across to accommodate your fat-ass baby palace on wheels. In general, assume that you have a shoulder-width of area that you can call your own, and don’t take any more room than that.

3. Control your dog
Dog walkers are a bane of other pedestrians, for several reasons. (Take note: this isn’t a screed against dogs — we all love dogs, especially yours, which we recognize is the best doggie in the whole wide world, yes he/she is.) Dog walkers can sometimes be less than polite. They’ll let their dogs approach anyone without asking, or let a pooch occupy the whole sidewalk by slaloming from smell to smell, back and forth across the walking area, taking up any and all possible room. Worst are the dog walkers who come unprepared for the eventual poop that will happen. Dogs poop on walks; it’s one of the reasons that dogs go on walks. The fact that they’re going to squat shouldn't be a surprise — unlike the surprise too many of us have gotten when we unwittingly step into a pile of something you should have picked up.

2. Listen
This means not cranking your iPod up to 11 and blocking out the rest of the world with your own personal soundtrack. Being part of a traffic pattern — and yes, pedestrians, that means drivers, bikers and you, too—means you need to be aware of your surroundings and able to respond quickly and efficiently to what happens around you. We get that you’re super-excited to have discovered that Barry Manilow podcast, but knowing the "Behind the Music" secrets of “Mandy” might be slightly less important than realizing that someone behind you has lost his brakes and is currently careening in your direction...and it’s not going to come and give without taking.

1. Drop the passive-aggressive behavior
Yes, we know, you’re a pedestrian. A lot of the laws on the books have to do with protecting you as the rest of us blessed with vehicles pass by.  But remember this, please: You’re not all-powerful. You’re not always right. Walking doesn't make you a saint (neither does biking, by the way), and don't think even God is watching out for you — that's your job. We're all just trying to get where we're going — whether in a Subaru, on a Schwinn or in Nikes. None of us are special, and the sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can all get along.  

Oh, and while we’re talking about walking? You too-serious walkers out there, please, for the love of god, stop wearing those obnoxious foot-shoes. 
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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