Justified left

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Don’t you think it’s time some order was restored to our footpaths?

“Golf,” renowned perambulator Mark Twain once remarked, “is a good walk spoiled.”

Twain’s disdain was focused on the game of birdies, albatrosses and bogeys. It’s fair to say the pastime did not rate highly in his regard.

Were Samuel Clemens alive today, however, I feel confident it’s not golf he’d be railing against for the disruption of his jaunts, ambles and constitutionals.

Rather, the monographer would doubtless be aghast at the frank paucity of manners and consideration displayed on our city footpaths.

A lunchtime stretch of the legs has become an obstacle-course negotiation.

Admittedly, I work in one of the city’s busiest and less salubrious locales, and in recent times foot traffic has increased considerably.

Indeed, it’s a jungle out there, full of pitfalls and minor predators.

Generally, if I can, I try to stick to the left, using our helpful road rules as a rough guide.

But I’ve discovered to my chagrin and consternation that often times I am not in the majority with this way of thinking.

One of the most common offences is committed by young students, strolling at an ever-so-leisurely pace, four or five abreast. They’re not going anywhere quickly, and neither are you. Time’s winged chariot is racing near, children. Tarry not.

Packs of young male office workers get my goat. In their too-tight suits, they strut, slink, or hurtle along in a contest to see either who can hold up the most pedestrians, or knock them out of the way, depending on the day.

Tourists choosing the most opportune time and place – here, in the middle of the footpath will do – to consult maps; pettifoggers dragging along steamer trunks full of homework; thousand-yard starers; high-heel totterers; distracted shufflers; general lollygaggers; graffiti-photographing Instagrammers; nicotine-addicted office rubes smoking in large groups;  and insistent right-side adherents. Collectively they are the scourge of our footpaths.

In a recent trip to Sydney I noticed the train stations have signs advising folks to stick to the left on stairs and ramps.

That’s a great start, but doesn’t go nearly far enough. Let’s place those signs all over the city, and enforce guidelines around proper prescribed pavement practice (the Four Ps).

And I propose a citizens’ action group to enforce the codes of behaviour: the Walking with Purpose Collective will issue infraction notices, generally acting as stewards of sensible ambulatory behaviour.

It’s time, as Mr Twain would inarguably agree, to take a stand. To walk the walk.

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