Book Of Good Living: Crowd-Sourcing How to Walk

I’m trying an experiment here. Long-time readers may remember a couple of posts a while back about something I call The Book of Good Living.

I see this thing as a part of Beta Culture — a basic resource about living day-to-day. Something like Wikipedia, written and evolved by reader/contributors, and containing a great deal of advice and direction — which everybody is wholly welcome to ignore.

But … you know, a body of objective wisdom about life. Jeez, we get so much hyped and over-hyped shit thrown at us every day, about how we should live, how we should act, what we should wear … it’s like that mass of stuff we might once have learned from our parents and grandparents, or even savvy peers, is drowned in the noise of the crap projected at us through Internet-radio-TV-magazines-billboards-etc. So that EVERYBODY knows how cool it is to get your belly-button pierced, or why you should never give oral sex on the first date (unless it’s true love!), but nobody knows how to safely clean your ear with a Q-Tip.

Or how to apologize. How to deal with grief. How to walk on the roadside next to traffic. Or any of the ten thousand other things that go into the living of real life, rather than the shotgun-scatter of acts and attitudes we’re taught so we can serve as convenient consumer-units for corporations, compliant citizen-puppets for governments, or mindless donor-thralls for churches.

I wanted something for US, something WE designed, to allow us to live better lives for OURSELVES.

Because … well, because who else is going to do it?


I advanced the idea of The Book of Good Living, and then promptly did nothing about it.

Mainly, I think, because it was too big a bite. I couldn’t see myself starting it. I mean, where the hell DO you start something like that?


Here’s my start, my experiment. I want to throw one small thing out and see what sort of input it will garner. Feel free to comment, correct, add to, take away, critique or compliment. Let’s see what we can do with it.

How would you improve the following:


Walking / Being a Pedestrian:

As a pedestrian, never-never-never trust your life or well-being to the people operating vehicles near you. Don’t assume every driver, or any driver, has good vision, good judgment, good driving skills, or good will.

If you’re walking or otherwise physically in or near a roadway, assume every driver is distracted, in poor health, immature, prone to lose control, or simply doesn’t notice you. Do not, for one second, take your attention away from vehicles moving toward or near you.

Further, as a pedestrian, treat the safety of every child, baby, wife, husband, pet, friend or loved one accompanying you as being at least as important as your own. Keep watch for them as well as yourself.


Notice I haven’t said anything about crossing only at crosswalks. Others might argue, but as an adult who is already freakishly aware of the dangers of traffic, such a rule just seems silly to me.

Although I might put in something about not impeding traffic by, say, crossing only when you’re not impeding the flow of traffic — for instance, don’t start crossing when you know the light is about to change so that you’re delaying drivers who are about to get a green light. (Maybe crossing the street would get its own, related entry.)

I think the goal in making a Book of Good Living, if it’s possible at all, is to make each BOGL entry as clear and simple as possible in its most basic formulation, maybe with these arguable refinements added as successive addenda.

Anyway … Thoughts? Suggestions? Refinements? Reformulations?





Race and Culture Again: Bessie and Lois
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
Looking Past the Bright Sun of Crazy
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
  • Kevin

    When walking in an area with no sidewalks, walk FACING traffic. That way, you’ll see the distracted driver, or the trucker with the side-view mirror sticking out just about head-height, and you can get out of the way.

    I do notice that “jaywalking” is very regional in its practice. In New York City, I had a cop encourage me to move along quite against the light as I was holding up other pedestrians. In Columbus, Ohio, at 3 am on an election night, I watched with amazement as a lady waited dutifully for the light to change, even though there wasn’t a car within four blocks of her position.

    San Francisco, the pedestrians expect you to stop, because the law says you have to. So, they abuse the privilege to the point of scaring me witless. I do not drive in San Francisco if I can help it. Gonna knock someone to Cleveland one of these days.

  • Eric Riley

    I would add a note about showing courtesy to drivers by not lollygagging in the crosswalk, and don’t step out and force them to stop if doing so might cause an accident (I (in part) caused an accident by looking like I was about to cross, a woman stopped to allow me to go, and the person following too closely behind her ran into her car.) Be aware! I should have hung back a bit and waited for the cars to get past, even though it is my right (under Oregon law) to step out and start crossing in a marked crosswalk (if there’s no light).

    If there are cars waiting to turn, I hustle across so as not to impede traffic.

    I generally give courtesy waves to drivers who are nice enough to stop to allow me to pass, and then I move quickly so they don’t have to wait around for me.

    On the other hand, I can be a fairly aggressive pedestrian too – drivers, stay out of the crosswalk, I will smack your car with my umbrella if you are edging too close to me – this includes when I am forced to walk on the shoulder of the road when there isn’t a sidewalk. I’m not going to walk through mud so you can speed down a residential street – it’s *our* road, not *your* road.

  • Didaktylos

    Remember that large trucks can generate quite a slipstream.

  • dgrasett

    I always phrased that as
    Three things you learn [or should have] before you are five.
    1. Don’t stick your fingers, or anything else, in a light socket or receptacle.
    2. Don’t poke bears [or other large animals] with sticks
    3. Walk facing the traffic.

  • Rebecca Hensler

    On escalators or moving sidewalks, stand or walk slowly on the right and walk quickly on the left. (Or is this just a United States thing?)

    • bradleybetts

      Nope; you try standing on the left of the escalator in London… I wouldn’t recommend it.

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  • kennypo65

    Always assume that every driver may be drunk

  • The Phytophactor

    These days when iZombies using their iPhones stumble along and walk right into you as if you weren’t there, you should expect that all drivers are distracted at least in part. Also expect that all drivers of all vehicles are in a bigger rush that you are to get someplace, otherwise they’d be pedestrians too. My Father taught me very well to understand that even though the pedestrian may have the right-of-way, you’ll never win the physical argument with a vehicle.

  • amypfeffer

    “(I (in part) caused an accident…”

    You did not cause that accident. The blame for that collision rests solely and entirely on the driver who was following too closely to stop safely.

    Thus spake Amythustra.

  • amypfeffer

    A subset of this entry could be walking in inclement weather. Help drivers see you by wearing light-colored or reflective clothing. Help drivers avoid hitting you by not behaving erratically: move at a steady speed, signal your intent as much as possible and pay attention to your environment. Understand that conditions may make it *impossible* for drivers to stop their vehicles for you and adjust your behaviour accordingly.

  • F [disappearing]

    Not all pedestrians are pedestrians. Some may use wheels for transportation. So be aware of the people with whom you may be sharing the walkway, including chair drivers. Stay to one side, and when walking in groups, do not make it difficult for others to pass you in either direction.

    As to bright clothing, I’m a bit ambivalent on that score.

  • c2t2…

    Unfashionably late, but I’ve got stuff to say!

    Here’s a good one: Dress for the weather. If it’s cold, wear layers that can be removed as you warm up. If it’s raining or snowy/slushy and people don’t shovel their sidewalks (ahem, everybody who lives in my town!), only wear clothing you’re willing to get soaked with filthy road-water.

    I’ve got a couple of suggestions for highway-walking in the middle of nowhere.

    Mountain/Forest country: Give moose, buffalo, and free-range bulls a lot of room. Get behind a tree if possible, and move slowly.
    Ignore most smaller critters.
    (This varies widely by region, e.g. I have no clue about the safest way to move through the everglades).

    Farm country: Off-leash farm dogs generally won’t attack, but there are exceptions. Some of them will rush up to you, barking. This can be scary, but probably not an attack, and you don’t want to harm a dog that was just sounding the alarm or running over to say ‘hi’. Learn about canine behavior, and what to watch for when a dog is planning to attack. Never, under any circumstances, run away from one. If you have to, carry a nightstick or some similar, dense club-like thing to make yourself feel safer.

    Here’s one that especially applies to women: If two walkers are on an isolated stretch of country road, and the other person appears drunk, armed, or belligerent, or you just don’t like the look of him, feel free to cross the street. Do not worry about offending him; safety is more important. Make sure to cross well ahead of him, and try to look like you were going to do it anyway. Usually he’ll give you a dirty look and keep going.

    If not, (this is important) act like he doesn’t exist. Don’t look at him. React to nothing he screams at you. He’ll usually give up.

    If not (again), pretend to mess around with a cellphone (even if you don’t have one) and raise your empty hand to your ear, like you just called someone (a handy pseudo-witness on an empty road!) Talk to the imaginary person, giving details on your location, then just chatting like you’re catching up. If the guy is still shouting or crossing the road toward you, give him an annoyed I’m-on-the-phone! wave-off and keep walking, talking to your imaginary friend.

    (My experiences have never escalated further, so I can’t elaborate any more than that.)

    One ‘walking’ thing I have very little experience with is hitch hiking. I know it’s illegal, but sometimes people have no other option.

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