Examining 'sidewalk rage' in New York City

February 17, 2011 3:25:15 AM PST
New York is a city where walking is preferred and often required.

But unlike the roads, there are no real rules for sidewalk etiquette.

What do you do when you're cut off by a speeder? Or blocked by a slow poke?

Eyewitness News examined a phenomenon called "sidewalk rage" and has tips on how not to lose your cool.

New Yorkers are pretty much always in a rush.

"You bob and weave. You might throw a shoulder here and there, but you gotta do what you gotta do," said a construction worker.

When that doesn't work, look out for a case of "sidewalk rage".

"In New York City the sidewalk is our mode of transportation and when there are tourists and they don't know how to walk fast or people in general just looking at things, it really, really bothers me," said Jonna Stark, a pedestrian.

Sudden, impulsive fits of fury can pour out when you're stuck behind meandering tourists with maps, that guy on the cell who's talking but not walking, or the fellow checking his email.

"You always give him a little knock. If they nudge you the wrong way, call them an old fart, lose some weight or something," said Randy Farinella, a pedestrian.

Researchers studying "sidewalk rage" say those people who get all bent out of shape are often the same people who have lists of rules on pedestrian behavior.

"It's more common sense you should have by moving to the side instead of standing in the middle and people are waiting to pass," said Gary Epstein, a pedestrian.

Experts say this winter has only made the cases of "sidewalk rage" more frequent and more severe.

All the snow, ice, garbage, the people in big coats make for less room for fast moving New Yorkers to get to where they need to go.

"Certainly squeezing more people into a smaller space results in people becoming a little less tolerant of others," said Dr. Alan Hilfer, the Chief Psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center.

A city study shows in Lower Manhattan the average speed of walkers is 4.27 feet per second.

Tourists walk slower at 3.79 feet per second.

Cell phone users came in just under the average. They move at 4.2 feet per second.

If you really want to make good time, walk behind someone wearing headphones. They motor along at 4.64 feet per second.

"We have to be more tolerant. We're tougher. We're New Yorkers. We need to be able to tolerate when people aren't so tough and when things don't go our way," Dr. Hilfer said.

It's good advice for New Yorkers who should remember that at some point you'll be slow-moving tourists in someone else's city.