THE BLOG
08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Walking Manhattan -- Rules for the Road

Manhattan for the pedestrian can be heaven or hell, depending on a combination of factors. Attitude and thoughtfulness are important. Some knowledge is essential.

Manhattanites know, for example, that almost all major north-south thoroughfares are one way. And that the major east-west thoroughfares are generally two way. And that the bulk of rest of the crosstown streets are one way and narrow, even going east, odd going west. The exceptions are the older parts of the city, like Greenwich Village and the Wall Street area that were laid out before the dominant grid came into being.

Here are a few thoughts for the visitor who wants to go on foot.

1. Walk up and downtown against the oncoming traffic. And when crossing streets, do so on corners where the turning cars are in front of you, not behind. You have enough work avoiding what you can see.

2. Do not automatically trust Manhattan's Finest when they are directing traffic.Many are trying to make the cars and trucks move faster. We pedestrians are the enemy. They suffer us. They yell at us when we do not make way for vehicles.

3. Cross all one-way thoroughfares in front of stopped traffic. Doing this will not protect you from bikes but it will reduce the odds of your being done in by a turning car, truck or bus.

4. Always try to avoid avoid situations where a car you cannot see can turn into you. I repeat myself but this is the most important rule of all.

5. Watch for bikes. Impunity describes their MO when it comes to pedestrians. Naturally they suffer at the hands of cars, but that is another matter.

6. On crowded sidewalks, follow someone ahead of you at a distance of ten paces or so. Let the person or group you follow run interference for you. Do not let on that you are doing this. You will be pleased at how this works once you get the hang of it.

7. Watch for unexpected changes in the levels of sidewalks. You can easily trip or stumble if you expect something to be the same level and it isn't. Walk smartly, lifting your feet a mite.

8. You may want to avoid blocks where there are parking garages. These are disturbing places for pedestrians. Drivers are raring to go. You could be toast as far as they are concerned.

9. When there is no traffic on a crosstown one way street, cross in the middle of the block.

You cover about a mile when you walk twenty short blocks up and down town. You cover a mile when you walk around eight long blocks across town. You can readily see that if you walk you can reach many destinations in roughly the time it might take you to get there some other way, particularly during rush hours.

If you follow these rules, your chances of getting there are about as good as if you risked some other mode of ambulation.

Most New Yorkers believe we have a pedestrian paradise. That works well for those who have not been decimated, like the late Dr. Atkins of diet fame, after falling on the pavement. And those who are not routinely hit by careless drivers.

The pressure should always be on for pedestrian perks and pedestrian protection.

That said, Happy walking.