Sidewalk etiquette

Sidewalks are for everyone. photo: Lexie Lee

The great fall weather means we all love to walk. Of course, as a four-legger, I enjoy walks anytime, but fall is the best with the warm sun, cool air, and long shadows. I guess that’s why there are so many people and dogs out. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves: lack of sidewalk etiquette.

Take the Four Abreast phenomenon: four people walking abreast taking up the entire sidewalk almost from building to curb. Chatting on, clogging the walkway, they seem to have no concept that others may want to walk at a different pace. Sometimes people walking the other way actually have to step off the curb to avoid being shoved out of the way, and that’s not good if they are walking a dog. It’s like the Four Abreasters are the 49ers offensive line. Four Abreast, please look around and remember the sidewalk is for everyone.

Here’s one of my favorites, the Double Wide. Strollers today are made to accommodate a minimum of two kids, a week’s groceries, a large handbag or backpack, along with a convertible top, and wagon-sized wheels. If the wheels were yellow, we could refer to the strollers as the “surrey with the fringe on top.” Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry off the sidewalk … especially if the pusher is on his or her cell phone.

Oh, that’s another one, Walking and Talking. It wasn’t too long ago that someone walking alone talking aloud would get strange looks. Today, it goes unnoticed if the person has earbuds or a phone in hand. (If they are truly just talking to themselves, that’s another issue altogether.) Anyway, the problem is that people truly cannot focus on a phone conversation and be self-aware about bumping into others or even remembering where they are going. The traffic safety studies have already proven that talking on a phone while driving is extremely dangerous. That’s why there’s a law against it. I heard mom talking about China’s “cell phone walking lanes” on sidewalks to segregate those who want to talk and those who just want to walk. I think it was a joke, but what a concept.

People don’t have to be talking to not be paying attention, sometimes just listening (presumably) to music is just as bad. The other day I was riding in the car with my mom and thank goodness she stopped at the stop sign because suddenly there was a very cute Schnauzer crossing very closely in front of us with his plugged-in mom looking the opposite direction. Had Mom “crested the hill” that Schnauzer would have been schnitzel. It’s always a good idea to make eye contact with car drivers when you’re walking us furry folks, folks.

It’s good to remember that even in public, your behavior, and your children’s behavior, affects others. Just the other day, in front of Wells Fargo on Chestnut, two parents were having a conversation while their kid was sitting on the sidewalk wailing and screaming his little heart out. And, it was not just for a little while. His screaming could be heard three blocks away a full five minutes later. Noise pollution? Courtesy? Good parenting?

Finally, here is a scary one for me. Dad and I were on Chestnut when we came upon a nice looking 55-pound golden retriever tied to a parking meter. As I am wont to do, I wagged my tail as hard as I could and went to sniff noses. Goldens are such sweet dogs. But not this one! After an initial greeting, this golden barked viciously and went for my head. Dad was quick and swiftly yanked me out of harm’s way. (I’m only 18 pounds but I could have handled that golden no problem.) As we walked away, twice more within the time it took us to walk just a block, we heard the dog and his vicious attack bark. Now if you have an ill-tempered dog like that, why would you tie him up on a public sidewalk with the possibility of someone (or somedog) being attacked? Not to mention the potential for a lawsuit … but, oh, I just did.

Etiquette, civility, and respect on our sidewalks. That’s all I’m barking for.

Walden Majer is an 8-year-old poodle mix and starts his nose-to-the-ground perspective each day from Cow Hollow. E-mail: [email protected]

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