covid19 · fitness · walking

Taking My Daily Constitutional, Miss Manners at My Side

Dear Miss Manners, I live in a crowded city during a time of pandemic. My only regular outing is my daily walk, to get some sunshine and enjoy some quiet contemplation. What is the best way to navigate shared roads and sidewalks while respecting social distancing? Sincerely, Walks Against Traffic.

If we are walking towards each other on the sidewalk, whomever is going against traffic should walk in the street. That way, any potential traffic dangers will be seen, and appropriate social distancing can be observed. Reasonable exceptions to this rule are people pushing strollers, those whose mobility are assisted by a wheelchair, and others with visible movement challenges. It is less clear to me how to navigate this situation when one of the people has a dog; however I’m inclined to believe that the rule still applies. But, I recognize that dogs can have rules of their own and they are not always as flexible in changing times as we would like them to be.

It has always been rude to walk aimlessly, staring down at your phone when there is any opportunity that another might need to walk around you. Nowadays, it seems nearly inexcusable. If you need to check your phone, respond to a text or change your music, find a driveway or other area you can step aside out of the way and take care of it. That way those who are sharing space with you needn’t feel alarmed that you are oblivious to their passing as you swerve into their space.

If you are walking with a friend, and you choose to maintain a safe distance from them as you walk together, prepare to have one person back off and walk single-file should someone be coming from the other direction. Expecting the approaching person to walk between you, and therefore be within contact of both of you as they pass, is unreasonable.

Bicycles belong on the street. This is true if you are an adult or a child. It is not reasonable for a pedestrian to be expected to keep necessary distance from you when you are moving significantly faster than they are. Stick to the street and ride with traffic. Behave in a manner that is predictable.

Those who choose to smoke or vape should find a private location to do this, not to impose their fumes on others using public spaces.

If you are traveling as a pack–a large group of friends or family walking or biking together–consider how your group may be forcing the community to accommodate your desires to move together as a roaming hoard. Walk in small groups, spread apart, so you can observe the other guidelines listed here.

If you are driving through a neighborhood, observe all traffic laws. Yes, I know that there are far fewer cars on the road. However, stop signs and speed limits are there for people’s safety, and pedestrians, runners, and cyclists are in larger numbers these days. We would like to avoid being hit by your car.

Did I miss anything? 🙂

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found taking a daily walk and doing bodyweight inverted rows from her kitchen table, as a form of picking up heavy things and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at .

Photo description: Crowded streets and sidewalks in Albany, Oregon, circa 1905. Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society.

2 thoughts on “Taking My Daily Constitutional, Miss Manners at My Side

  1. How about smile at people you pass, too?? Even if you’re wearing a mask, they can tell you are smiling.

    1. That would be nice! I was raised in a small beach town with mostly retirees and tourists, and it was local culture to smile and say hello to anyone as you passed them on the sidewalk. City living hasn’t completely removed this habit, but I recognize I’m in quite the minority! Usually it’s significantly elderly people who seem to appreciate it and return the courtesy.

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