“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
At Walking About New York, we know how to take a walk! As a walking tour service, Walk About New York strongly endorses walking about the Big Apple. Walking is the best exercise. It is also the best way to get to know New York City or any city for that matter. The city is relatively level, with few ups and downs in Midtown and below. This runs counter to what the Lenni Lenape called the island, Manahata meaning ‘island of many hills.’
NYC’s Transportation Department began installing new signals in 2000, replacing the Walk/Don’t Walk signs with ones that show a red hand (Don’t Walk) and green stick figure walking (Walk). The new signals use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of incandescent bulbs. The LED’s are brighter, more energy-efficient, and have a life span of more than 10 years, five times than old incandescent lamps. Some of the Walk/Don’t Walk signals now include a timed countdown, allowing varied amounts of time to cross the street before the signal changes.
Walk the streets of NYC as a local does; if there are not any oncoming vehicles, feel free to cross the street. Locals even cross at diagonals. It is technically against the law; but it is highly unlikely that anyone would be ticketed for jaywalking. Even on one-way streets, look both ways before crossing the street; bicycle riders often travel against the traffic flow.
New York City sidewalks can get congested with tourists and locals. Tourists, most visiting from car-centered parts of the world, may not be familiar with navigating crowded sidewalk. For locals walking is a critical way to get from Point A (usually being home) to Point B (usually being work).
In the more residential areas of town, the sidewalks are narrow. Please do not walk two, three, or more abreast. Please keep to a single file; and keep that single file on the right hand side. Think of it as driving on the right side of the road. This is a very helpful and courteous practice. This may go against the conditioning for Brits and others who drive on the left. This suggestion for keeping to the right is good to apply when using subway steps or escalators.
Fifth Avenue is the center of Manhattan’s street grid plan, adopted in 1811. From this center point the numbered streets run east/west. Traffic on Fifth Avenue flows downtown. When facing the direction the traffic is moving, the east side is on your left; the west side is on your right. Traffic on even numbered streets runs east; on the odd numbered ones it moves west. There are exceptions, when the streets has traffic traveling in both directions. This is the case for major crosstown numbered streets, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th and 59th Streets.
The rules for the streets apply to those north of 14th Street. Because the streets and properties below 14th Street had been established for decades, they were left in place, not conforming to the grid. This is one reason why Greenwich Village streets run at odd and potentially confusing angles. Get a laugh at the odd intersection of West 4th and West 10th Streets on the Greenwich Village Walking Tour.
The streets running north/south are called avenues; there are 11 major avenues, from First Avenue on the eastside to 11th Avenue on the westside. The even numbered avenues run uptown; the odd numbered one travel downtown. Immediately to the east of Fifth Avenue are non-numbered the avenues, Madison, Park and Lexington; Third, Second and First Avenues follow from there on the march to the East River.
ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT © THE AUTHOR 2014–2017