Advice 101 – So you are coming to visit dievca: Walking in NYC

OMG!  You are coming to NYC — dievca is so very excited for your visit….until you walk on her sidewalk.  Look, she’s in Midtown — can you avoid that section until your learn the rules of the road sidewalk, so to speak?


Here are 11 suggestions for walking effectively in New York City, follow them religiously and you will have a fabulous time!

Don’t walk 4+ people abreast…do it two-by-two.

Yes – those sidewalks look wide, but few of them are wide enough for more than four people abreast. That means when your family/friends walk shoulder-to-shoulder en masse to Times Square, while looking up, you cause the other pedestrians walking toward you to be forced to either step into the street or press themselves against the nearest building. Or they will just plow through you (dievca’s choice). Keep to your half of the sidewalk, no matter how many are in your group—unless the sidewalk is empty. And in that case…ask yourself why the sidewalk is empty.

Don’t stop short.

NYC sidewalks are packed, there is an ebb and flow. New York pedestrians walk super close to one another, including the people directly ahead of them. Sometimes they even match strides so they can get as near to the person ahead without actually stepping on his or her heels. So don’t come to a sudden halt when you realize you are going the wrong way or you want to stop to see something.  You will risk being smashed from behind. Instead, slow down and move gradually to the curb or towards the buildings, allowing other walkers to flow around you.

Understand the need for speed.

You are on Holiday. Wonderful – we get it.  We are not on Holiday and we need to get somewhere – NOW!  Einstein measured space and time in terms of a four-dimensional continuum. In Manhattan, we measure time and distance in terms of city blocks. We know that we can walk one north-south block per minute and one east-west block in 3 minutes. That means we can get to our next appointment in exactly 10 minutes if we’re 10 blocks away. But we can’t do that if you are looking up, sashaying, daydreaming, or trying to text your BFF about the play you saw last night. Pick up the pace, people!

Texting and Google Maps.

DON’T DO IT WHILE WALKING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK!  Put your back against a building wall, face out and finish your business – then continue on your way. You are clueless and dangerous while texting, playing Pokémon or looking at a map – admit it.

Hanging out at the Corner.

The street corners of New York have a lot going on; lots of people coming and going, attempting to cross the avenue in four different directions, all at once, often in a hurry to beat the coming red light. Might not be a good place for you to stand and look up at buildings or for you to spread out your map, to check your texts, or to have a debate about the restaurant you’ll choose tonight. Butt, against the building – ok?

Don’t be wrong about the right of way.

Right of Way does exist, sort of~.  Even New Yorkers sometimes screw this one up. Here’s the idea: You don’t walk into me, I won’t walk into you.  That’s as opposed to, “You were in my way so I crashed into you.” Doesn’t work like that. If we all did nothing but get out-of-the-way of other people, there would be pedestrian paralysis. We’d never make it to our respective destinations. Walkers in NYC realize that as long as you don’t bump into another person, even if they “cut you off,” the World will be a better place and we’ll all get to where we’re going. Eventually.

Follow the rule of right.

Sorry Brits — we know that we mess this up in London…I’ve seen the look left notices. I know that NYC seems like a different country, but it is still America, right? Americans drive on the right. We walk on the right. If you want to avoid the Sidewalk Tango or Crosswalk Can-Can with an oncoming stranger, JUST GO RIGHT.

It applies to escalators, too.

You walk enough in New York, you will sooner or later end up on an escalator. In Grand Central Terminal. In Rockefeller Center. In the 7 line, Hudson Yards subway station. In Macy’s. The “rule of right” applies here too. Stand to the right so that those in a hurry can walk on the left side. And if you hear someone behind you shout, “Stand to the right, please,” they probably mean you. People are trying to get places.

Selfies are selfish…

We know that you are so excited you are hanging in the Big City. We know that if you don’t capture it on your phone, it didn’t happen. But when you are stopping to take a picture of yourself—or if someone else is taking a picture of you for your Blog—get the heck out of the foot traffic flow. And that Selfie Stick? Do you know how dangerous it can be when someone grabs it?  Look, by getting out of the flow of traffic, you’ll have more time to get a good picture, and you’re less like to have a bunch of locals giving you the one-finger salute or an elbow bump/body check.

Be ready to see people to cross on a red light.

In New York, we are on a timeline.  So, we take “don’t-walk” signals as a suggestion. We also know our commute well and can time lights, perfectly.  You can’t. It’s not your territory – you should follow the pedestrian lights. In fact, you should never walk anywhere in New York that’s not set-up for walkers. Just know that there are people on foot behind you, ready to cross, who are much more experienced at this than you are. Don’t stake your place 4 abreast at the corner, let them pass and watch artists at work!

Asking for help – do it!

You can ask New Yorkers for directions or help.  Just don’t expect them to listen to your story.  Be clear and concise with your question, then listen closely because it will be a short direct answer.  You are disturbing their timed walk and they just want to get going.  Most New York walkers will help, but don’t expect them to give you extra special attention. Unlike you, they are NOT on Holiday.

dievca hopes this helps you to fold into NYC Life seamlessly.

By the way, in 2010 ImprovEverywhere did a presentation called “The Tourist Lane”. It was quite funny:

For our latest mission, we created separate walking lanes for tourists and New Yorkers on a Fifth Avenue sidewalk. Department of Transportation “employees” were on hand to enforce the new rules and ask pedestrians for their feedback on the initiative. Enjoy the video first and then go behind-the-scenes with the photos and report below.

Just click on the link above in red!

dievca has had this post idea/complaint for awhile,
Thank You to for providing the push!

20 Comments on “Advice 101 – So you are coming to visit dievca: Walking in NYC”

  1. Pelelotus says:

    Agree with you on how annoying people can be when you are trying to get on. London is similar when people wander aimlessly and you want to get on. There should be a purposeful lane and a slow lane. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. New Yorkers screw up the No Texting rule bit time, tho! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • dievca says:

      Where I walk I see more tourists with the Google Map app….and walking 6 abreast. XO


      • Hehe I’m one of the google map app’ers… but trying my best not get in the way… On the other hand, I find walking 6 abreast really annoying too. Esp. in Brussels’ tiny pavements where you really have nowhere else to go and they won’t split up and you have to squeeze yourself through… agghhhhrr

        Liked by 1 person

      • dievca says:

        I’m the irritating wiggler who worms her way through the crowd to get to the front of the pack at the light. Something to do with being short. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. darkgemdom says:

    Been there
    Done that
    It’s SOOOO much fun and relaxing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dievca says:

      This is not the place to come for soothing relaxation — that’s the Caribbean…this is the place to come to for energy and creativity! Some people thrive on the dynamic. XO


  4. Wet Bliss says:

    Well, this refresher post is about two weeks late, but I quickly got with the program and stepped it up in NY fashion. And your suggestion on the motto boots was spot on though luckily they didn’t have to tread through any snow or slush. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ret MP says:

    GREAT tourist tips! and my favorite is the one about asking for help. When i visited NYC (for the first time) a friend living there told me to set aside all worries and preconceived notions about what NYC is and just go there, with an open mind and take it in. Perfect advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dievca says:

      It’s different than it was in the 1970’s…(reminds me of all the people who say, “Chicago: Al Capone – bang, bang.”) People who visit NYC seem to have trouble with the pace, but they love it. I do burn out after awhile, too.


  6. Marty says:

    All pretty logical (and considerate!) points. It does seem strange that you have to review good manners, doesn’t it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dievca says:

      I think from the American Tourist standpoint — most people don’t live in an area where you walk all the time. They drive cars. So they don’t know any sense of etiquette – add a mass of people to the equation and you have chaos.


      • Marty says:

        So true. But nonetheless they should be able to understand the concept that these are “shared resources” ie you can’t have it all to yourself and your i-Phone. Learning to “share” sometimes seems beyond them

        Liked by 1 person

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