Who was wrong? Sidewalk etiquette
November 8, 2021 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Jogger looked at me like I broke the unspoken rules. Did I?

Walking my 5yo home from preschool, I saw someone jogging in the neighborhood. She was then coming towards us on the narrow sidewalk. I figured she has plenty of advanced warning, and the neighborhood has few cars, so she will just move into the road for the small segment of the sidewalk that we are occupying. She didn't do that. She kept her path on the sidewalk, made some huffy sound when I didn't move and she had to get on the grass, and afterwards looked back towards us with a grumpy face as if we did something wrong.

My assumption was that a small child has the right of way, as the alternative was to make my son get in the road. Surely that isn't the proper etiquette in a situation like this. Is it?

I also could have made him move to the grass but he has a broken arm, so I'm trying to avoid uneven surfaces, and even without the broken arm, shouldn't the adult move in favor of the small child having the protected walking space? Did I violate some rule that joggers have primary rights to the sidewalk, even trumping small children?
posted by crunchy potato to Human Relations (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: My assumption is also that a small child has the right away. The jogger acted like a jerk.
posted by Glinn at 3:29 PM on November 8, 2021 [36 favorites]


It is hard to say without a better idea of "narrow", if you two were side by side, then yes, you were wrong. You should have asked him to take his side of the road and go single file.

We live in the city so this happens with my four year old, I say "Some one is coming, get in your lane!" and it is fine. I also teach her to yield for strollers and smaller kids.

If you were already walking in single file, then she was just being weird and rude.
posted by stormygrey at 3:30 PM on November 8, 2021 [96 favorites]


She should’ve moved. I would’ve done so back in my running days. I think she was clearly in the wrong here.
posted by cheapskatebay at 3:31 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


How narrow is this sidewalk??? Like, a foot wide? Were you and the kid walking two abreast?

Reasonable attempt should be made to allow someone to closely pass (i.e. you and kid go single file, hug the side) and in situations where that's not possible the person with undeveloped gross motor skills gets right of way.
posted by phunniemee at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


I think you were right to go with your gut. What if you had tried to get him over to the side and he tripped and hurt his arm. You're the only one looking out for your kid, that jogger was most assuredly not.
posted by bleep at 3:36 PM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


I def. think the jogger was in the wrong.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2021


I too vote in your favor, and given the broken arm I'd stick with that even if you were side-by-side. I've had a child with a significant but non-obvious injury to heal and I wanted to stick close to them, not risk some weirdness like them trying to turn to watch me or getting spooked by the much larger person running towards them. And I mean, ideally one tries to make space anyway, but that doesn't always work out and adults who are feeling well enough to go out jogging can make a tiny detour to accommodate.
posted by teremala at 3:39 PM on November 8, 2021


You yield to toddlers because they have limited control and are smaller, less powerful sidewalk users, just like motor boats yield to sailboats and kayaks. In real life, some motor boats are driven by jerks, too. Life's short, accommodating toddlers is worth it.
posted by theora55 at 3:40 PM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]


Response by poster: I'd say the sidewalk is about 2-2.5 feet wide. It's a bit uncomfortable to walk side by side as two adults, but we do it sometimes. My child was walking behind me.
He also doesn't understand "stay in your lane" consistently so even when I tell him to, he tends to overtake the space, and now I can't remember if he was doing that or not but I really expected her to go around two people on a small sidewalk since the neighborhood doesn't have much traffic. Thanks for the comparison to boating hierarchies theora55.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:51 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


If you were side by side you should have moved to single file. If you were already single file then it’s hard to say.

Also based on driving laws where you live, would moving into the grass have kept you on the correct side? Or did the jogger have to cross your path to go into the grass?
posted by raccoon409 at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


Jogger was in the wrong. Faster traffic always gives way to slower traffic. Adults give way to children. The jogger was a jerk.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:04 PM on November 8, 2021 [20 favorites]


I hate it when people walking together don't move to single file so oncoming walkers can pass but even I would make an exception for someone with a little kid. Also, I think people moving at much higher speeds on sidewalks than everybody else (like joggers) have the responsibility to steer clear of more slowly moving people. Jogger was the jerk.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:06 PM on November 8, 2021 [27 favorites]


I'm a jogger and in the situation you describe I would have moved onto the grass or stopped entirely and stepped aside to make room for you and your child. I kind of operate like regular walking pedestrians have the right of way, although I might get a little annoyed if they don't attempt to move over at ALL I would NEVER make a face or huff about it. There's an elementary school a couple blocks from my house and sometimes the sidewalks are full of parents walking their kiddos to school and I often have to run on the grass to get around them. It kinda sucks because I'm not the most graceful person and I'm old and injury prone but I still do it because it's the right thing to do. The jogger was a jerk, try not to let it get to you.
posted by misskaz at 4:07 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]


You clearly broke that jogger's unspoken rules.

I'd have broken them too. Grown-ass adults who can't find it within themselves to be a little gracious around visibly injured little kids can zuck off.
posted by flabdablet at 4:08 PM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


You yield to toddlers because they have limited control and are smaller, less powerful sidewalk users

I can honestly say this is the very first time in my life I've ever heard a child of five described as a toddler. Granted, my early education wasn't interrupted by a pandemic, but by the age of five I was well acquainted with the concept of walking single file in two-way foot traffic.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:09 PM on November 8, 2021 [43 favorites]


I’m a runner with Opinions About Sidewalks and was prepared to say you should have gone single file, but that sounds like a pretty narrow sidewalk and, more importantly, your kid has a visible injury.

I typically move into the grass if there’s anyone in the sidewalk these days. If grass isn’t an option and the road is clear, I’ll move to the road; if the road isn’t clear, I slow to a walk to pass, because many people find someone running by to be startling. If people are walking in a way that takes the entire sidewalk and they don’t go single file, though, I come to a dead stop so that they’re forced to go around me, and I am admittedly a bit miffed that they think their conversation is more important than my safety.

To other posters: people without children are just as empathetic and polite as people with children; please don’t make assumptions and draw conclusions based on so little. People without kids are people, not monstrous beings intent on running over your kids.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:12 PM on November 8, 2021 [41 favorites]


If you were single-file you were totally in the right, might be different if you were two-abreast but small kids complicate things and even if you were single file if I was the jogger I wouldn't trust the kid not to unintentionally block me at the last second. Someone out walking their dog would be a similar thing. Jogger is out there to get exercise. They can move onto the road and get some more exercise while they're at it and most joggers in my area are already on the road by default.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:18 PM on November 8, 2021


I am surprised by the people suggesting the child with the broken frickin arm should have been instructed to move to single-file position so the jogger did not have to inconvenience herself for like, 8 seconds. A jogger who then petulantly made a noise and a sour face. At a mother and her child with a broken arm.
posted by Glinn at 4:18 PM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


Honestly this sounds like both parties were a bit in the wrong to me. If you and the kid made no attempt to share the sidewalk with the jogger then I think you were in the wrong. With that said, it is a fairly quotidian sort of wrong, so the performative judgement of the jogger also seems over the top to me. I think it's totally reasonable to expect you and the kid to move to single file, but also not any sort of big deal.
posted by lhputtgrass at 4:18 PM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


The kid and parent were already walking single file - please read poster's update, folks.
posted by queensissy at 4:19 PM on November 8, 2021 [15 favorites]


In my neighborhood, runners usually run on the side of the street, because there are almost always quite a few people walking on the sidewalk (and since the pandemic began, it's even more common that people run in the street). I think it makes sense for faster-moving people to make the detour.
posted by pinochiette at 4:29 PM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


I’m not a jogger but even as a walker I would have given you a wide berth. And I’m not a 5yo but joggers usually go out into the street when approaching me on the sidewalk.
posted by HotToddy at 4:34 PM on November 8, 2021


I'm a jogger and always get in the street when anyone is on the sidewalk. I usually did this pre-COVID and always now.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:36 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


I was also all prepared to say "you should have gone single file and made room for her", but yeah, in such a narrow space and with a young injured child it sounds like that may not have been feasible. If someone had to make way, yes, it should be the jogger rather than the injured child.

This doesn't sound like a big deal, though, just a normal everyday sort of "misreading each other's cues" thing. I don't think you need to lose sleep over it.
posted by Stacey at 4:38 PM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


While we're all debating the finer points of sidewalk etiquette, let me take this moment to point out that this is a system failure that designs streets to prioritize cars over people.

No one in this situation should have had to make these calculations. There should be room on our sidewalks to accommodate walkers, joggers, people in wheelchairs, people with strollers without any of them having to go into traffic to make room.
posted by brookeb at 4:59 PM on November 8, 2021 [71 favorites]


you're fine. Yes ideally two walkers should get into single file so that nobody has to get in the road; however I believe you that in this case that wasn't possible; and OBVIOUSLY should be pushing a small child into the street. Jogger was rude and wrong.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:49 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]


jogger assumed they would win the struggle for sidewalk dominance. jogger lost. revel in your glorious victory.
posted by are-coral-made at 6:40 PM on November 8, 2021 [15 favorites]


Keep in mind that jogging makes some people angry (or look angry) because it's hard enough without having to switch to a different-feeling ground, which is hard on the shins. When I'm walking, I yield to joggers a little because I know this, but I also expect the other person to make an attempt to yield, out of courtesy. She should have yielded to a kid.. but if you guys were not single file I still would have been annoyed as a jogger that I don't get half the sidewalk. As a mom, I would be annoyed that someone didn't take more care around my kid if a jogger didn't move. Maybe I'm a jerk either way.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 6:48 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]


You say your child was walking behind you, is it possible the jogger never saw him?
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:38 PM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


I go both ways on this. As a jogger, I go into the road. As a walker with a young child, I often either go single file, step off the sidewalk onto the grass or to the side to make room for others. So, I think everyone here could have done better.
posted by Toddles at 8:31 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


You were already single-file on a narrow sidewalk. The jogger's attitude towards you was unequivocally rude.
posted by desuetude at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


Jogger should have given way, especially assuming that she could see you had already moved single-file, and especially ESPECIALLY if she could see that you had a kid with a broken arm in tow.

That said...if you're like me, sometimes it's easier to get over these encounters if you apply some creative benefit-of-the-doubt.

So, if it helps to tell yourself a different story, you can assume that she was cooling down after a very long run, and her proprioception/situational awareness were affected. (For these purposes, "very long run" could be any distance, depending on the experience and fitness level of the runner.) Maybe she felt a little disoriented. Maybe she hallucinated you as her bitter workplace rival or her mean sibling. Maybe she had runner's diarrhea and could think of nothing else.

The point of this speculative narrative isn't to excuse her crummy public behavior, of course. But it might help get the bad taste out of your mouth.
posted by armeowda at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't ever be a wang to someone walking with a kid much less an injured kid.

With that said there could be various reasons that going onto the grass or into the road could be difficult and/or dangerous for a runner, ranging from nursing an ankle injury to being vision impaired to being 20 miles into a training run and too exhausted to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. But in this case it sounds like you did all you could. City needs to make the sidewalks wider.
posted by ftm at 10:14 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I didn't pay sufficient attention. 5 year old, not toddler. I stand by the analogy.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2021


Is COVID not a thing anymore? I would expect a jogger - exhaling heavily, would go at least six feet away from a child who could not be vaxxed.
posted by saucysault at 12:02 PM on November 9, 2021 [4 favorites]


While we're all debating the finer points of sidewalk etiquette, let me take this moment to point out that this is a system failure that designs streets to prioritize cars over people.

I'm not sure I agree it's even that - it's that your average US sidewalk is mostly designed as a maintenance space and people walking are unexpected and at best tolerated, so the consideration that the sidewalk should be wide enough for 2 adults (that's 6 feet wide, not 3.5 ft) is a complete engineering afterthought.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2021


I always move self and kids (4 yo and 1.5) into grass for wide berth since covid. Would do so here unless grass involved difficult terrain for broken armed kid.
posted by anthropomorphic at 4:43 PM on November 10, 2021


So you were already single file and the jogger still wanted to force you and a small injured child onto the road so she didn’t have to step on the grass for two seconds? She’s absolutely a jerk.
posted by Jubey at 8:12 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


If the child was behind OP single file, then the jogger didn't know the child was there.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Is COVID not a thing anymore? I would expect a jogger - exhaling heavily, would go at least six feet away from a child who could not be vaxxed

Let's just say that where I live, COVID is a thing, but public health is not the priority for the majority. My district lobbied the school board to override the governor's mask mandate.

My child was walking all over the place, and moved behind me as we approached the jogger. He had been next to me. The neighborhood is very small and we had seen her in another part of it already. I doubt that I saw her and she did not see me.

I am still miffed about this situation but I believe that I did all I could, and that my assumption was more or less reasonable. Thanks for weighing in.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]


Granted, my early education wasn't interrupted by a pandemic, but by the age of five I was well acquainted with the concept of walking single file in two-way foot traffic.

Just for perspective, I didn't experience two-way foot traffic IRL until I was sixteen, decades before this pandemic and lived outside the US. Today I would have yielded to the kid and probably made a funny face at it.

how long are askme threads even open?
posted by bendy at 10:30 PM on April 5


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