Photo by Cristofer Jeschke via Unsplash

Last month while walking down Victoria Street, I saw a guy knock a girl’s Tim Hortons cup over after the two bumped into each other while she left the coffee shop, phone pressed right up to her face.

She was understandably upset—there are few things more sacred to us commuters than morning coffee. But her reaction surprised me; she started yelling at this guy, telling him to watch where he was going.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘Does she not see the irony?’ The guy tells her that she should be watching her surroundings, not her phone screen, and that he had already moved as far out of the way as he could without walking onto the road.

These are not isolated incidents. I commute almost daily and can confidently say Torontonians are some of the least considerate pedestrians I’ve ever shared the sidewalk with.

There are many different offenders: those who walk in the middle of a busy street instead of sharing the sidewalk, or friends who walk in a horizontal line so no one can pass them without walking into the road. And this list would be remiss without mention of the kind of individual who, for whatever reason, decides the best place to stop and check their phone for two minutes is in the middle of a busy street or subway entrance during rush hour?

Oddly, when you try to politely pass one of these above archetypes with an “excuse me,”  they give you sass.

As someone who regularly commutes, I think there are two standards pedestrians should follow to improve everyone’s commute: awareness and mutual respect.

Be aware of your surroundings. Know where other people are, especially if you’re on a crowded street. Likewise, respect others’ personal space. If you’re walking down a narrow sidewalk, pick a side and stick to it. If you see someone down the street walking on the same side, be a decent person and switch sides—especially if they are elderly or have mobility issues.

Furthermore, have respect for your fellow pedestrians. Sometimes we get into this mindset when we’re commuting where our destination is all we’re focused on—especially if we’re running late—and we don’t realize that every person we pass has their own destination and schedule they’re trying to follow as well.

Let’s return to the case of those two people outside Tim Hortons. In my view, they’re both wrong. The guy should have said “excuse me” or just stood still until the girl had passed, realizing she was not paying attention to her surroundings. Conversely, if you’re constantly glued to your phone – like she was –  while you’re walking, the message you send to people is that it’s their job to move out of your way, not that you are equals who must respect each other’s space.

Until our pedestrian culture changes, I’ll stick to the side streets when I can.   

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