Inhuman Swill : Pedestrians

What's that you say, Reuters? New York's pedestrians are the eighth fastest in the world? Are you sure?

Pedestrians in Singapore were crowned the world's fastest movers, walking 30 percent faster than they did in the early 1990s... Copenhagen and Madrid were the fastest European cities, beating Paris and London. And despite its reputation as "the city that never sleeps," New York ranked only eighth in the pace race, behind Dublin and Berlin.
We score that high? Because when I go out walking, I am stymied by the slow. Not sure I want to live in Singapore, though. Copenhagen might be nice.
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Laws of Traffic Dynamics #43

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Stationary pedestrians will tend to cluster on a public sidewalk at its narrowest point.

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Is it so much to ask?

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I really don't want that much of the sidewalk. I'm only asking for the width of my shoulders. So why is it, when there's more than enough room for three big guys to walk abreast, and there are only two of you coming my way, and I'm already as far to the right as I can get without stepping into the street, that I have to turn sideways to avoid a collision? I guess I left my sense of entitlement home today.

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If there's one thing you can rely on pedestrians to do, it's to not walk a straight line. Just try to pass one from behind and see.

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Pet Peeve #17

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The way pedestrians traveling in a group always spread out laterally to block the greatest possible width of sidewalk.

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The one argument I won

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I have a certain ex who was always very . . . willful. Once we came to a corner together in the city. A mother and child shared the corner with us. There was no traffic, but the mother was telling the child to wait for the light to change before crossing. The ex began to step off the curb. I stopped her. "There are no cars coming," she said in the tone of voice that was like the warning crackle of ice beneath my skates.

"This woman is trying to teach her child not to cross the street against the light," I said quietly. "You're going to compromise the lesson."

So she relented and didn't cross the street. I don't remember winning many other arguments, but the ones I did were always like that one—quiet. I never won the screaming matches. There must be a must lesson in there somewhere, if she didn't compromise it for me somehow.

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Eugenics Corner

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What gene is it that humans share with dogs that compels us to dash across a busy street just before the cars arrive?

I call the intersection where Broadway, Columbus and 64th all come together Eugenics Corner. To get across to Lincoln Center, you effectively must cross three streets, with two small islands between. Except in the middle of the night, it's almost impossible to get all the way across in a single cycle of the traffic lights, but that doesn't stop dozens of people from trying every day. Almost any time of day, you can go to that corner and watch people attempt to improve the health of the gene pool by running out into traffic.

I don't know whether people don't see the traffic coming, don't think it's coming in their direction (it is a confusing intersection), or think they can beat it. But inevitably someone steps off that second island and then has to bust a move to get to safety. My favorites in recent memory were the very well dressed, very portly couple on their way to the opera who apparently thought that their social status rendered them superior to the laws of physics. In the middle of the street, when they realized they had stumbled into the path of a predatory yellow taxi, a base flight instinct snatched the reins away from the conscious mind—sort of. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to picture these two fine corn-fed specimens hustling their asses to the safety of the opposite shore.

I wish people like that would be more considerate of those of us waiting patiently for the light to change, the ones having small heart attacks every time the jaws of Darwin miss by a fraction of an inch. It's too bad they usually make it to the other side alive. (I've only seen one person struck by a car in all my life, up at 125th Street. That's if you don't count the time I was hit myself, at the age of eight, which probably explains a lot about this pet peeve of mine.) There are often children watching this spectacle, and how can a parent teach his kids to cross the street properly when so many adults are setting such a piss-poor example?

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