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Sidewalk Etiquette

Eva Lewandowski

For most people, sidewalks aren’t a common topic of conversation.  At most, we might hear about them a few times in winter, when our weather makes (or should make) shoveling an almost everyday occurrence.  But we’re still enjoying relatively warm weather, so why am I writing about sidewalks right now?

As a dedicated pedestrian, I spend a lot more time on the sidewalks of the Twin Cities than most people, so they remain at the forefront of my mind year-round.  I’d like to go over a few key components of good sidewalk etiquette.  These are simple things that are important all the time, and adhering to them can make our sidewalks a great place.

For Homeowners:

  • Don’t set a sprinkler to spray over the sidewalk.  Not only is it a waste of water, but most people don’t want to get soaked when out for a walk or on their way to work or school.  For many people, especially those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, navigating off the sidewalk to avoid your sprinkler is not an option.  A surprising number of sprinklers are set to spray all the way into the road, which means that pedestrians have to choose between getting wet and stepping into traffic.
  • Keep your sidewalk clear of all obstacles.  That definitely includes clearing snow and ice, but also means removing toys, repositioning garbage cans, trimming overhanging shrubbery, and not parking cars on the sidewalk.
  • If your children play on the sidewalk, please teach them to move out of the way when someone needs to get by them.
  • Familiarize yourself with and follow the sidewalk rules and ordinances for your city.

For Sidewalk Users:

  • Be polite to others you encounter on the sidewalk.  If you are walking in a group, walk single file when passing others so that you don’t force them off the sidewalk.  If you are able-bodied and unencumbered, make way for young children on bicycles, parents with strollers, or people in wheelchairs.
  • Be respectful of the sidewalk as a shared space.  Littering or spitting on the sidewalk is rude to the homeowners and the people who will walk by after you.
  • If you are concerned about a poorly maintained sidewalk, ask your city what ordinances are in place, and if necessary, notify them or the homeowner of any transgressions.  In many cases, the homeowners are not aware that they are violating a city ordinance and are happy to make a change.

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