Walking in England is like a never ending game of "Chicken"

Posted on November 21, 2008 by pacificyorkshirebird

avt_kapyork_large114And I always lose. 

Here in Yorkshire, I am a pedestrian.  (*Insert extra points for being eco friendly!)  I like walking most of the time – but it really messes with my personal space threshold!  First of all, I had to learn that if I always stay to the right, the English people walking towards me get confused.  So I experimented with staying to the left.  That didn’t help either.  It seems which ever direction I go I am in the way.  Turns out, there are no unwritten rules about pedestrianism.  Follow the written rules such as “Stand on the right” or “Look left” and by all means “keep behind the yellow line” when in a queue.  But don’t expect such organisation when walking down the road.

I think actually it’s all in my head.  When I am walking towards a group of people going the other way, I am the only one concerned that there is not enough space for each of us to pass.  In fact, no one even realises that I am there until I smile and say “sorry” while I risk getting hit by cars to make room for everyone.

Sometimes I do a little experiment and choose not to budge.  “Let them get out of my way for once” I think to myself.  Usually, I give in anyways – or we bump into each other.  Why must walking in England be a constant game of chicken?

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Steve Shawcross August 2, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Haha, yup that is occasionally is said…. usually one person corrects his/hers path the same time and direction the other does, until they bump into each other!

  2. Steve Shawcross July 31, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I can let you in on the secret code!

    If somebody is walking straight towards you, then you sidestep slightly– that’s it really!

    Sometimes the other person will pre-empt you, and sidestep out your way. But if (s)he gets within 10 feet of you, then it’s your turn to sidestep on that occasion.

    Whether you sidestep left or right, depends on various things. Where other people are, how far away from the road you are, what’s the other side of pavement to the road (grass or a fence), how much space you have either side of the person coming the other. Obviously if you have more space to the right side of the pavement, then you would sidestep right.

    People seemingly ignore you in this context, because they trust you will sidestep in due time; even if you don’t, they will automatically stepstep for you.

    Hope that explains it… probably not [ha]

  3. yankeebean November 22, 2008 at 7:44 am

    That’s just not on… they sound like creeps!

    Sometimes I wonder if there’s some secret code that only English people are allowed to know. Maybe when I pony-up and become a citizen they’ll let me in in the final British secrets…

  4. Meg November 21, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I, too, attempted an experiment with this and it drives me INSANE!! Just today, in fact, I was walking with the three kids I look after (one of them is in a pushchair) and it was absolutely pissing it down. We approach about 5-6 young boys, maybe 15-16 or so. I decided to stand my ground and not budge and not only do they NOT even ATTEMPT to pick a side to make room, considering I’m pushing the baby, they hesitate in front of me and then SPLIT OFF on either side, while there is clearly NO room along the brick wall to my right (not to mention barely any on the pavement altogether) and they bump into me and the boys I’m with (5 & 8) and don’t even say “sorry.”


  5. peacefulyorkshire November 21, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Hmmm, yes, I usually stick to the left when I am pedestrianizing these days in town. If I walk on the right I have a secret fear that people will just KNOW I am American…even with my Asda carrier bags, ballet pumps and fantastic umbrella etiquette.

    Or on a more positive day I think, Oh, If I walk on the right today maybe people will think I am French… yes, that is much more “savoir faire”… ;)

  6. yankeebean November 21, 2008 at 10:17 am

    YES! I have gone through this EXACT SAME thought process. Why doesn’t anyone take any notice of you when you’re walking down the street? I’ve started just bumping into people, too… sometimes I’m just not in the mood to bow and curtsie my way down the street.

    Let them deal with Yankeebean the tank…

  7. Mike November 21, 2008 at 4:11 am


    I love the title of the blog. very cute!

  8. yankeebean August 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I usually just laugh and say, “Shall we dance?” :)

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