Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
Under the (sadly fake) decree, sidewalk violators would be denied permission to re-enter the city for 5 years.
In New York City, walking is serious business. And if you’re a newcomer to the town where foot traffic rules, the NYC Department of Pedestrian Etiquette would like you to know that you might very well be doing it wrong:
Effective April 1, 2016, all new residents and visitors to New York City [o]ver the age of 16 will be required to take a mandatory training session on Proper Etiquette for navigating the sidewalks and streets of the greater metropolitan area.
The spoof sign with these instructions, spotted by an East Village resident named Katherine on East Seventh Street, was highlighted by the beloved neighborhood blog EV Grieve. It announces the establishment of “an oral and practical exam” for newcomers and tourists. Failure to pass this exam, according to the flyer, will result in failure to secure a pedestrian permit and “denial of permission to enter the city for a period of no less than one year.”
- Blocking the sidewalk or any public area in a large group or just standing like an idiot in the middle of pedestrian traffic. Also referred to as “Clumping.”
- Weaving from side to side oblivious to busy New Yorkers trying to get the hell around you.
- Walking with your face in a map or mobile device.
- Excessive arm swinging or bag swinging.
- Stopping on a bike path with a big group to take pictures of squirrels.
- Or any rude or offensive pedestrian behavior as deemed unsuitable by the NYC DPE Patrol Units whose judgment shall be final.
The consequences for those incurring “three strikes” against the code? Removal of the offender and denial of permission to re-enter the city for five years.
In reality, of course, there is no Department of Pedestrian Etiquette within the New York City government. (Reality is a drag like that.) But many New Yorkers might wish that there were such an authority. With more than 56 million tourists visiting the city in 2014 alone, “clumping” doesn’t even begin to describe the conditions resulting in certain key locations: Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Brooklyn Bridge, to name a very few.
This is hardly the first attempt to address the problem of rampant pedestrian misbehavior in the nation’s premier walking city. Previous efforts to educate the ill-mannered have included Pedestrian Penalty Cards, pop-up sidewalk lanes separating tourists from locals, and several entries in Nathan W. Pyle’s very instructive (and charming) animated series NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette.
And it’s not just visitors who screw up walking for everyone else. As Gothamist has pointed out, New Yorkers certainly bear their fair share of guilt, particularly in categories such as “children and pets” and “texting zombies.”
The announcement from the NYC Department of Pedestrian Etiquette, with its enforcement deadline of April 1, 2016, is clearly a joke. Its guidelines, however, are really quite sensible. We also like the sign-writer’s designated beneficiaries for permit fees and fines: underground artists, community art spaces, and art programs in public schools. That would be justice indeed.