Getting Around NYC: Walking

Getting Around NYC: Walking


Get Used to Walking

The nyc subway system can get you to most places in the city and pretty close to almost everything, but there are limitations. Traveling cross-town in Manhattan is easier done by bus and sometimes quicker on foot. Going between Queens and Brooklyn is quickest by car.

Basics + Etiquette

It feels slightly ridiculous to write about “How To Walk in NYC” but sometimes it seems people really could use a refresher on urban walking.

Let’s start with some basic walking etiquette:

  • Stay to the right
  • When walking in a group, avoid taking up the entire sidewalk (especially when walking at your leisure)
  • Smokers, keep your cigarettes up & out of the way so others don’t get accidentally burned (thanks @fierian)
  • Dog walkers, keep leashes short to avoid tripping up folks on the sidewalk
  • Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look at Google Maps
  • Don’t walk in bike lanes
  • Watch out for cyclists when crossing the street
  • Do not expect cars (or bikes) to stop at a red light


Jaywalking is acceptable in nyc. Everyone does it and cars expect it. However, cars do not yield for pedestrians in a cross walk. They will not slow down until they absolutely have to. It’s kind of a free-for-all. Here’s a video example of a basic nyc intersection.

Wind Tunnels

This city may not have a catchy nickname like Chicago but it definitely gets pretty damn windy here. Many avenues and Broadway in particular are often wind tunnels. Also, walking out of the subway can have a similar effect.

I mainly say this as a warning to girls in skirts. Short flowy skirts just don’t handle well while walking so definitely plan on wearing a pair of spandex shorts underneath.

Also, walking against the wind can get very tiring, very quickly.

How To Use an Umbrella

Exploding Dog

Let’s start this by saying I hate umbrellas and refuse to use one. It is always windy when it’s raining, which means your umbrella ends up inside out more often than not and you just look like an idiot fighting with the thing. You need to carry it around all day because there is a slight chance it might rain later in the afternoon (and then it doesn’t). You never have it when you need it. They take up so much room on the sidewalk and come dangerously close to poking your eye out.

With that said, I don’t use umbrellas but I understand people do so let me remind you of some umbrella etiquette:

  • The $5 umbrella you buy on the street corner in the middle of a rain storm will last only for that rainstorm.
  • Be reasonable and don’t use a giant one – they really take up so much space on the sidewalk
  • Stay aware of your surroundings so you don’t accidentally use it as a weapon (my eyes!)
  • Bring a plastic bag with you to put the soaking wet umbrella in so it doesn’t get everything wet when you close it up
  • You will still need rain boots

Walking the Bridges

Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge sucks walking over because it is always crowded as fuck. To make things worse, it has the worst walking/biking path set-up of all the bridges. Of course, the bridge has been around for 100 years so it gets a pass.

The upper level of the bridge is only for pedestrians/cyclists, which is great. Unfortunately it is only two lanes. That’s one lane for walkers in both directions and one lane for cyclists in both directions. The high capacity of foot traffic was certainly not anticipated when the bridge was designed. A lot of potential crashes like this happen. So pay attention and try to stay out of the bike lane.

Cyclists, avoid riding over the bk bridge if you can. It’s just not worth it.

Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges:
Both of these bridges have separate bike/pedestrian lanes on opposite sides of the bridge. The north side of both bridges is for cyclists – a lane for each direction. The south side of both bridges is for pedestrians – also a lane for each direction. Try not to use the wrong side because it can be pretty dangerous if I’m walking on the correct side and not expecting a bike to fly past me.

The Manhattan Bridge gives you a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge to the South and is a more enjoyable walk since it is not nearly as busy. The only caveat about walking over this bridge is that some trains go over it, which makes for a lot of noise.

The Williamsburg Bridge also gets less foot traffic and is quieter since trains do not go over it. It is one of the steeper bridges, especially from Manhattan to Brooklyn, making it a pretty good challenge to put at the end of your long run.

Edit: Somehow I have been completely oblivious of the noisy subway trains that go across this bridge.

No Zones
While there are other bridges you can walk over (Queensboro, Polaski, others I am not as familiar with) there are some roads you cannot bike or walk on. The Verrazano Bridge does not allow any pedestrians or cyclists except for special events (like the nyc marathon). All of the tunnels only allow vehicles (with restrictions on vehicle type).

Everything Takes Longer

Whether you’re visiting or living here, you will do a lot of walking. It can get tiring. Traveling in general takes longer than you expect it to so give yourself a cushion when planning consecutive events.

Wear comfortable shoes! Bring comfortable shoes with you! Sure, wear your heels out but bring flats because trust me, you’ll want to switch at some point.

Normal distance rules get thrown out the window here. For example: I live 6 miles from my job and that takes 40 mins by train. This is also assuming I’m not waiting a very long time for the train to show up. While there is a train schedule and are usually more trains during rush hour, you still never know if the train will arrive 2 mins or 10 mins after you get to the platform. It’s usually better/faster to walk than to take the train just 1-2 stops.

Please ask questions or add any information I missed in the comments below.


One Reply to “Getting Around NYC: Walking”

  1. Loved this haha, so true! My subway stop for work is Grand Central, and walking in that area is so tough. I get excessively frustrated by having to slow down and dodge cigarettes when I’m just trying to get home.

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