Friday, March 11, 2011

Take a walk on the "wrong" side

It's been ages since I've posted anything!  Well, I've been on the road, busy, out...
I'm still out in fact and it's being out, sitting in a cafe in London enjoying my "filter" coffee, just having traversed the fair city during rush-hour that has moved me to comment.

Everyone here walks on the wrong side of the sidewalk.


This is different from their driving on the wrong side of the road.  The left side is the correct side here. This isn't about that but that is why they all walk on the wrong side.

There are rules, laws even about which side of the road to drive on so there's no argument, no decision to be made, no thought even given. You drive on the side you are supposed to.  Walking is different.  You walk where you want and that's the problem.

In New York city, for example, (major tourist areas excluded) most people walk on the right.  Not always, but when confronted with another oncoming pedestrian most semi-intelligent people will veer to the right.  In hallways, corridors, subway platforms, stairs, etc... just like driving you stay to the right.  I'm not saying everyone does it but everyone knows they are supposed to.

Not in London.

London is a very culturally diverse city with people from all over the world, people who walk on the right and people who walk on the left and people who don't know what to do. Foreigners are all so self conscious about the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the street that they tend to walk on the left, or think they are supposed to. Londoners seem evenly split about which side to walk on and then there are the tourists who just plain don't care.

So here's a funny thing: the escalators all over London have signs asking you to stand to the right so people can pass on the left.  What? Shouldn't that be exactly the opposite? It defies logic thus adding to the confusion of the general populace. Londoner's all know to drive on the left, pass on the right. they are quite certain its the proper way to do things until it comes to pedestrian traffic on escalators, then suddenly the rest of the world has the right idea.

Almost as an acknowledgment of the problem, for you see it is a problem not just to me but to the very people that run the city of London, they have begun painting notes in the street at curbs telling people to look right or left depending on which way the traffic may be coming.

In the U.S. we look both ways...

I can only assume there have been a number of incidents where well meaning pedestrians were run down by livery vans speeding along through the street of London all the while the confused victim (assuming they survive) quite bewilderedly yells over and over "But I looked left!!!"

How can a nation that clings so steadfastly to its tradition of driving on the left not have the same resolve when it comes to walking.  What's wrong with consistency? Can they actually be thinking that staying to the right is the correct way to do things? They must, they put up signs.  And even funnier, it works! I'll say one thing, Londoner's obey signs.  I've seen chaotic mobs in the London Underground running willy-nilly any which way they please through the passageways suddenly all snap into a line and go single file the second they hit an escalator; the standers to the right and the walkers passing on the left. The moment they get to the top all hell breaks loose.  Suddenly those same well behaved orderly people start weaving, bobbing, ducking and dodging. There are people meandering on the left, sprinting on the right or just standing in the middle of the passage. Take away the sign and they don't know what to do.

Quite honestly, I think if they just reversed the signs - Stand to the Left and Pass on the Right - it would work out much better.  It would be consistent.  All of the UK could then know because it would be just like driving.

Or... they could start driving on the right side of the street.


  1. Things are always the opposite in Europe.

  2. Can't take any chances. The Brits have it right. There are too many idiots in this world (myself included) that need reminders when we forget to look up! The US should take note!