How to Walk Like a New Yorker: City Sidewalk Etiquette

To get where you're going in New York City (and maybe to pass for a local, if you'd like), it's good to know the rules of the road. New York sidewalk etiquette is easy to master if you take a minute to study up on how to walk like a New Yorker.

walking in new york sidewalks

Photo: Mo Riza/Flickr

Walk on the right side. 

It works for vehicular traffic. It works for pedestrians. Walking on the right means bumping into fewer people and having others more easily avoid you. Everyone wins.

Don’t multitask.

In plain speak, this means eyes off your phone while you look where you’re headed.  Stopping abruptly mid-street to use your phone causes others to bump into you. Also, avoid stopping at the top or mid-way on subway steps. 

Listen Up.

Sound cues help you understand what’s happening around you. Overheard chatter and even movements of air currents help orient you in space. Consider taking out your earbuds and taking in the sounds around instead.

Sidewalks are for pedestrians.

That means no bikes, scooters, or hoverboards (currently illegal in New York). Smart walkers look both ways at intersections to be sure nothing is approaching before stepping off the curb.

dog walking in brooklyn

Photo by Mark Nye/Flickr.

Control Fido.

Dogs are great walking companions but keep the leash short to avoid trip hazards. And, always clean up after your pooch.

Keep your eyes on your kids. 

Adorable, yes, but not when bashing through walkers’ shopping bags or running into people on their teeny scooters. 

juicy couture phone check new york city midtown

Photo by Roman Kruglov/Flickr.

Stay in stride.

Sidewalks have a rhythm which you should adopt. If you can’t walk quickly enough to keep the pace, move to the margins. Move out of the mainstream to text, phone, or snap a picture.

Don’t walk three abreast, a lá “mallwalking.”

Even on a wide stretch of sidewalk, stick to a twosome. Don’t hold hands. If you are walking with a stroller, alone or with a similarly equipped pal, be aware of the rest of the world. Don’t stop to chat, sip, or deal with the baby mid-street. Pull to the side. 

Manage garbage. 

There are trashcans at nearly every corner. If you need to unload anything from a piece of paper to uneaten food, it goes here. Do your part to help keep New York sidewalks and streets clean. 

About the Author

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, American Profile, Go Nomad,, Stratton Magazine, Go World Travel, and other outlets. A lifelong New Yorker and avid traveler, she also writes on food, theater, and other cultural events. Her blog, But I Digress…can be found at

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