July 1, 2016

"Veteran pedestrians... shoulder their way into bike lanes or walk purposefully on the street alongside cars — eyes ahead, earphones in — forming a de facto express lane."

"They move en masse along Seventh and Eighth Avenues like a storm system on a weather map, heading north in the mornings and south in the evenings.... 'When you get out-of-towners and New Yorkers, it’s like mixing Clorox with ammonia, it doesn’t work — there’s a chemical reaction,' said Jato Jenkins, a street worker, as he swept a stretch of Seventh Avenue. 'The New Yorkers walk their normal route, and the out-of-towners are going the opposite direction, like salmon going upstream.'"

From "New York’s Sidewalks Are So Packed, Pedestrians Are Taking to the Streets" (in the NYT).

From the comments over there, here's a high-rated one with lots of practical suggestions:
Smartphone jammers at all transportation hubs, or open manholes to swallow anyone preoccupied on one. Escalating fines for 3 across, 4 across, and 5 across the sidewalk, which become felonies during the Xmas holidays. Sidewalk etiquette orientation films while tourists are in line at customs. Right of way for anyone carrying a briefcase or shopping bag over 12 lbs. Ban the sale of dog leashes over 4 ft long. Ban baby carriages during rush hour. Public flogging of wrong-way cyclists. What did I miss?
Somebody says tourists "need to learn to keep pace with the locals... keep up - we walk fast around here." And somebody else says:
I am deeply concerned about elderly people who live in NYC. They have a right to walk at their slow pace sometimes using walkers or canes and they deserve respect and attention. I am quite fit and strong but find it a battle to keep from being assaulted like it is a football tackle. I defensively watch out, call out, jump aside but still find I am regularly badly knocked by someone passing in the other direction. I suspect it is often deliberate. How can the elderly be protected? They don't just have the option to go out on the streets when there is no one else out.
And then somebody named sakura333 says:
Small cities in Japan are as crowded, and major ones more so. What is different from there to here is the perception of the people. There, being in a crowd is expected. Here, the perception is "You are in MY way." Our emphasis on individuality bites us again.
Why doesn't belief in individuality cause awareness that other people are also individuals? Or is that just me being a pathetically romantic American liberal?

30 comments:

Jake said...

That whole city must smell like crap.

damikesc said...

It's not a focus on individuality.

It's that New Yorkers are cocks.

surfed said...

Cell phone jammers? Classic. I used one in my inner city oublic classrooms and it was like having a superpower. I could then use the same test rather than having a different one for each period. My questions were inviolate and safe from being texted school wide. In the instance cited in your postinf maybe a little dangerous...

whitney said...

Because that's not individualism, It's narcissism

Wilbur said...

I still hold with Alvis (Buck) Owens. I wouldn't live in New York City if they gave me the whole damn town.

Mick said...

New Yorkers think they are so smart, yet they elect an avowed Communist as Mayor (after the Marxist Bloomberg), and pile garbage on the street. Lovely place... not. Somehow they have all ended up in So. Fla. recreating the liberal political sewer of home.

rehajm said...

That whole city must smell like crap.

No. Some parts smell like piss.

Susan said...

It is illegal to use or even sell cellphone jammers in the US.

https://www.fcc.gov/general/jamming-cell-phones-and-gps-equipment-against-law

So they'd have to change the law to do it.

I sympathize with teachers or anyone who wants to use them. But they are illegal nonetheless.

damikesc said...

Smartphone jammers at all transportation hubs

Sincerely hope nothing important or urgent occurs at those locations ever.

open manholes to swallow anyone preoccupied on one

Let's kill those whose habits we do not like!!!

Ban baby carriages during rush hour.

Parents don't need to go anywhere during certain hours of the day!!

Fuck, NYC is the damned worst city on Earth. Why the hell did I ever feel bad for them after 9/11?

TCom said...

Multiculturalism. Japan has a single culture for the most part. They care about one another. New Yorkers have no delusions that other NYers give a damn about them.

Sad that we can't realize what was an obvious truth 100 years ago. We have gotten stupider, all in the name of unlearning the 'evil past'.

djv.sbrl said...

"We go two speeds in NY my friend - 'fast,' and 'get out of the way'"

Thank you! for reminding me of this -- Johnny T's NYC Tourist Tips.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8LmPBPWHJu4

DougWeber said...

Sounds like a slow news day at the Times. Most of the sidewalks I traverse have enough space to get around the people who slow down looking at their cell phone. Tourists are best treated like lampposts, as stationary obstacles. I find, contrary to the reports, that almost all people in NYC are patient and accommodating. It is just that there are so many people that even with low frequency for idiots, you do run into them moderately often. But I just shake my head and ignore them.

Original Mike said...

This is the city we are told is so fabulous?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I'm guessing that the confrontation-at-a-bridge thing, as in the Oedipus story, is a metaphor, but I really can't say for what.

Smilin' Jack said...

Why doesn't belief in individuality cause awareness that other people are also individuals?

Of course they are individuals--individuals that are in my way, damn them.

mockturtle said...

Small cities in Japan are as crowded, and major ones more so. What is different from there to here is the perception of the people. There, being in a crowd is expected. Here, the perception is "You are in MY way." Our emphasis on individuality bites us again.

Having been nearly crushed to death getting into an elevator in Tokyo, I would take some issue with this. In Tokyo, the whole crowd is saying 'You are in OUR way'.
In spite of that, I love Japan and its people.

mikee said...

Individuals can deal with a mass of other individuals just dandy.
It is a mob that can't be handled, by individuals or other groups, because the mob has no individual sensibility, responsibility or accountability.

The waters of the flood go where they can, not where they will.

NY might want to install pedestrian walkways above ground level, passing over streets at intersections and with an entrance/exit every two blocks or so. But then, that would require city planners make accommodation of citizens' actual behaviors, and decrease the graft & corruption possible now.

JaimeRoberto said...

Ah, NYC. Where I learned that I need to stand to the right on the escalator or face the wrath of Hell.

jaydub said...

When I lived in Japan, a good Japanese friend taught me a lot about the culture, both good and bad, which is unusual for Japanese when dealing with foreigners. One thing he said, and something I observed afterwards, was that Japan is so crowded that Japanese find their own space by ignoring others. When Japanese are walking down the sidewalk, they do not make eye contact with anyone, i.e., they don't recognize that that person exists. Unfortunately, the same applies to drivers - if you make eye contact with another driver he may think you are ceding the right of way, but if you do not make eye contact he realizes that you do not recognize his existance and he keeps out of the way. (I would add, "hopefully," because he may not see you either.)

CatherineM said...

This is a very particular corridor in Manhattan. It can be VERY stressful. People trying to make their train or Bus at Penn Station or PA or get to wherever from there because their train/bus was delayed and making them late. Rush hours are crazy congested in this area.

Not "all" of Manhattan is like this.

Thankfully, I don't have to walk through that anymore. Still, when my office was in Times Square...it's just awful. I always had lunch delivered or went to the cafeteria because the tourists and hucksters...just miserable.

Thankfully, I now work on nice and wide 57th although there are still plenty of tourists walking 3 or 4 people across on the sidewalk coming out of Nike or Tiffany's or some other place on their tourist map. That's BLOCKING the sidewalk! Yes, if I miss my bus because 30 tourists in their tour group block my way, and I have to wait another 20 min for my bus after a long day, you bet I will be pissed.

If you haven't lived it, you don't understand.

CatherineM said...

Japan is VERY homogeneous. When everyone is on the same page with manners, it's easier. However, you will get pushed and shoved if you take the train at rush hour there. You will be squished like a sardine where you have to stare at the dandruff on the back of some Japanese business man's suit for the next 30-60 min. If you can, you avoid it.

Jaime Roberto - it's even more strictly enforced in London. If you are not walking up the escalator, keep right if you are going to stand. Manners. I wish everyone walked on the sidewalk that way too. If everyone kept right like we do while driving, everything would flow more efficiently.

coupe said...

For less than a weeks pay they can get on a bus and move to Wyoming, where there are no cell phones, and better yet, no sidewalks.

People there using dial-up modems over copper wires to check on their AOL mail.

Unknown said...

Here is my individuality: I try to remain aware that I might be blocking people. If I need to use my phone at the airport or on the sidewalk I move to the side. At doors, I hold them for anyone, but especially for families or the elderly/handicapped. In a narrow hall I move over for someone coming the other way or passing me. Why do I get annoyed? People with bags and such who list from side-to-side so you can't pass them or make sudden turns without looking, or groups who block the whole sidewalk or airport concourse just standing there talking. Many people act like they can't imagine that someone might walk faster than them. Yes, that is annoying.

William Chadwick said...

There's a difference between individuality (or individualism) and solipsism. I live in a pedestrian-hostile, car-dominated Sunbelt "Edge City," with the solipsism (often morphing into outright sociopathy) manifests itself in crazy drivers more than crazy pedestrians.

ALP said...

Small cities in Japan are as crowded, and major ones more so. What is different from there to here is the perception of the people. There, being in a crowd is expected. Here, the perception is "You are in MY way." Our emphasis on individuality bites us again.

THIS!

I've used public transportation in Seattle for many years. Since the city is growing so quickly, many liberal cries of MORE DENSITY MORE DENSITY MORE DENSITY....

The self absorption and large "zone of privacy" that the typical Seattle resident displays on the bus or train makes me very skeptical that the citizens of this region can really live with the level of DENSITY they are always going on about...

Most bus riders in Seattle probably couldn't deal with NEVER having a bus seat all to themselves

Original Mike said...

"Unfortunately, the same applies to drivers - if you make eye contact with another driver he may think you are ceding the right of way, but if you do not make eye contact he realizes that you do not recognize his existance and he keeps out of the way. (I would add, "hopefully," because he may not see you either.)"

Wow, that's dangerous. When I drive it's all about eye contact. If I don't make eye contact I assume the other driver doesn't see me.

mockturtle said...

Most of us in the western US are used to having our space. Public transportation is looked upon as a last resort and used by gang members and the homeless. When I was at the UW, I had to use public transportation because the university had no student parking. Although it is touted as the 'green' option, it is still not popular with most Seattle-ites.

Balfegor said...

The contrast between Tokyo and NYC does not, I think, have much to do with an emphasis on individuality. Nor is it because New Yorkers don't operate on the assumption that they're part of a crowd. It's because NYC is a lot more diverse than Tokyo is, so in Tokyo, it's possible to enforce a more deliberate norm.

I forget the details now, but I recall reading once about a study of the pause time in conversations, i.e. how long speakers in a conversation could pause before others would jump in. The Japanese had exceptionally high pause times. The shortest pause times were, I think, among Spanish or Italian speakers. If you think about a diverse situation, then, there's naturally going to be a race to the bottom in which the conversational norm that emerges naturally is that if you wait too long to see whether the first speaker is going to continue, someone else will always jump in, and you will never get to speak.

If you consider that in the context of pedestrian traffic, it's not hard to see how in a diverse environment like NYC, there will be a similar race to the bottom. Suppose people from different cultures have different norms about cutting people off when walking. If you open up space ahead of you to let someone elderly or slow move forward, someone else will jump in front of you, and both you nor the person you were trying to be considerate towards will be further delayed.

In a monoculture like Japan, people will normalise to whatever the usual pace in their culture is. And in fact, it's not that much slower than NYC, but it is much more orderly. See, for example, the famous scramble crossing in Shibuya, or the similar crossing by the Koban and the Tokyu Plaza building on the western edge of the Ginza (no videos, but it is a perfect X, and the intersection between the four lines of pedestrians passing over the centre of the crossing is remarkably smooth). Crucially, people queue and wait for crossing signs and all that. Sure you might have the occasional foreigner who gums things up, but not enough to shift the norm.

New York, in contrast, has a critical mass of people for whom traffic laws are merely suggestions, so you have that race to the bottom in which if you wait for the sign to change or stick to the pedestrian lanes, or slow down even a minute, you'll lose out. And of course, there is safety in numbers.

Not to say that diverse environments can't produce an order short of descending into a free for all. In DC, for example, a natural order emerged with regard to which side of the escalator one stands on, and that's a strong norm that emerged organically despite the huge diversity of places people in DC come from (it's now supported by the Metro system, but my understanding is that it emerged spontaneously without prompting by Metro, and it was some time before the Metro grudgingly accepted it). On balance, though, I think diverse environments will tend to produce a mad scramble, because scarce resources will accrue to whoever claws his way to the front, and there is no shared norm to restrain that behaviour. And NYC exemplifies that mad scramble.

CatherineM said...

Very nice Balfegor, agree with most, but DC does not have the human congestion in the Metro nor a 34th street thru 50th street on 6th/7th/8th avenues pedestrian congestion like NYC during rush hour, never mind Tokyo.

I did get punched in the stomach with a rucksack by a homeless man in Japan once. My fellow commuter said, ignore it! We will miss the train!

Robert Cook said...

"Most of us in the western US are used to having our space. Public transportation is looked upon as a last resort and used by gang members and the homeless. When I was at the UW, I had to use public transportation because the university had no student parking. Although it is touted as the 'green' option, it is still not popular with most Seattle-ites."

A good mass transit system is a splendid thing...one can go anywhere one wants, quickly and cheaply, without having to endure the financial burden of owning a car, (initial purchase price, costs of fuel and maintenance, expenses for unexpected things going wrong requiring repair, from the inexpensive to the grievously so, insurance, etc.). Any city lacking a good mass transit system--most cities in America--is a barbarous place.