UPDATE | Stand aside: Sidewalk etiquette for a pandemic

How close is 'too close' for our sidewalks, especially now that parks are off-limits?

How we share our streets is a topic that many are interested in. Readers have weighed in below (see comments), and we’ve added the City’s guidelines for how to manage our precious, shared space. In a time of heightened anxiety, we are craving ways to enjoy the outdoors, while needing to be mindful of new and unfamiliar etiquette.

From the City of Piedmont

Here are some best practices for walking and running when other people are around:

  • Walk on the Right Side: Walk on the side of the street in the same direction of traffic. If we all follow that rule, there is less likelihood of oncoming walkers that need to be sidestepped. Treat the sidewalk as ‘one-way’. 
  • Share the Road: If you’re traveling in a group of two or three people you live with, switch to single file when passing others, and if on a narrow sidewalk, walk single-file at all times. 
  • Step Aside: Give special deference to people less agile than you: the elderly, those with wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers. They don’t have the same options to get out of your way.
  • Shorten the Leash: When walking your dog, be mindful that a leash stretched across the sidewalk can make passing hard and may be a potential tripping hazard.
  • Save Sidewalks for Walking: If you’re adult using a scooter, hoverboard, skateboard, or bike, stay in the bike lane; if you’re a child using a wheeled mode of transport, stay on the sidewalk with caution, with the considerations for others given above. 
  • If You’re a Runner: It is even more incumbent on you to anticipate and avoid others; you’re moving at a faster pace than they may be able to react. 
  • Consider Walking at Off-times: Many folks want to walk in the evening, after dinner or a day of working at home. Try choosing a less trafficked time.
  • If You’re Walking on a Street with No Sidewalk: Walk on the side of the street opposite the flow of traffic. This may seem counter-intuitive to the advice listed here, but rules of the road dictate this for greatest visibility and safety.  

Original Exedra Post | April 10

Do your part to make others feel like they are part of a caring community.

At certain times of day and depending on where you are in town, a simple walk or run around the neighborhood can feel like a hazardous journey. Readers have sent us a few suggestions for courteous behavior when out and about:

  • Walk on the right side of the street in whatever direction you are moving to avoid oncoming walkers.
  • If you are approaching someone older than yourself, you should be the one to go out into the street to maintain the 6′ separation.  You should not force the older people into the street.
  • Anyone approaching a baby stroller should yield the sidewalk so that the parent and child do not have to go out in the street.
  • Runners, joggers and bicyclists should only be in the street.
  • A Piedmont elder says: “All of my friends want anyone they pass to be friendly, at least a wave, a hello or a good morning or good afternoon.  Many of them say hello to fellow walkers, etc. and get no response, no smile, nothing.  The isolation everyone feels is intensified when walkers, joggers or whatever are not friendly.  After all, everyone outside in the air most likely is a citizen of Piedmont and should be doing their part to make everyone feel like he/she is a part of a caring community.”
  • Dog walkers should cede sidewalk to non-dog walkers.
  • Please don’t stop to chat with friends / neighbors on narrow sidewalks/walkways.
  • Runners using narrow staircases for workouts should step aside to allow others to walk up or down as necessary.
  • Should everyone wear masks while walking around town? Anecdotal evidence suggests this is not yet a common practice.

Anything to add? Please share in comments below.


6 thoughts on “UPDATE | Stand aside: Sidewalk etiquette for a pandemic

  1. Caring. Courteous. These state an intent and goal I value, but the tips listed have an admonishing tone. May I suggest overall guidance that can best serve the intent on creating a caring environment – simply be mindful that people may be anxious of the virus, and that we need to Share our outdoor space, and to watch out for those that may be more encumbered than you. I agree with other posters that uncivil, mean and unkind behavior seem more common these days, perhaps bolstered by these well meaning tips. To so readily engage in conflict, no matter how right you might feel, will not serve yourself or the community well. Be kind, stay healthy.

  2. I was actually very disappointed to read this article. It makes no mention of etiquette towards children (apart from those in baby strollers). Many Piedmont moms have noticed hostility to young people, usually from elderly walkers. Two things are particularly painful about that. First, children should always be afforded the protection of the sidewalk. Unlike adults, they do not have the street smarts to be safe in the street. Also, staying active is a crucial part of their mental and physical well being. This is true for all of us, except that children have been robbed of the way they usually satisfy that need: recess and after school sports. Secondly, please remember that children are suffering intensely from the lack of school, friends, birthday parties, activities, and the basic joys of being young. Their worlds have been turned upside-down to protect the elderly. This is the right thing to do. But I hope that before being rude to children, people take a deep breath and remember that children have lost everything in a way that no other demographic has.

    • Thank you Katie. My 13 year old has been harassed twice now by adults who should know better. He has been cursed and screamed at, even though he was abiding by the 6-8 feet of distance rule, and just trying to get out of the house to get some fresh air and exercise. This has been very upsetting to him. We need to remember to be kind to one another.

  3. First 2 weeks of SIP I was walking down Grand Ave and Lake Merritt. Beyond the somberness of all the closed businesses, many runners and others at and near the Lake simply did not obey the six foot distance. I have only been walking in Piedmont now. Everyone in town understand that six feet is six feet. And everyone gives a smile or wave. Nice!

  4. Great tips! Especially about being friendly. Sometimes it feels like I’m back on Jr. High and the ‘mean kids’ are trying to avoid me

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