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Pandemic etiquette: How to safely and courteously navigate crowded sidewalks

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    Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — With spring upon us, people are more eager than ever to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but that also means fewer opportunities to remain physically distant from others in city parks and on busy sidewalks. spoke to two Canadian etiquette experts for tips on how people can get outside safely, while remaining courteous to others.


One of the biggest tips Blais Comeau and Kosik mentioned was to keep to a single file as much as possible and to walk on the right edge of the sidewalk to ensure as much physical distancing with oncoming pedestrians as possible.

“Stay on the right side of the sidewalk — extreme right — trying to maintain that six feet,” Blais Comeau said. “If you see people oncoming on the other side, someone that may have a mobility impairment, a family with young ones, if you are able and if you can do it safely, go to the other side of the road to let them circulate safely.”

If you need to pass someone, Nancy Kosik, certified etiquette expert at the Kosik Academy of International Protocol and Etiquette Inc. in Montreal, encourages doing so on a driveway rather than someone’s lawn and only use the bike lanes or roadway when necessary and safe to do so.

“You may be safe from COVID, but you don’t want to be hit by a car,” she said. “That defeats the purpose, right?”

In an area where passing people or staying two metres away is especially difficult — such as a trail or park – Blais Comeau said that communicating with oncoming walkers can help.

“Make that eye contact and say ‘Hi’ and then extend your hand to show that you’re going let them go ahead and then you’re going to go into the woods,” she said.

Dogs should also be kept tight on their leash and runners should plan their route ahead to avoid busy streets, the experts added.


Both experts mentioned people should keep their distractions to a minimum while out for a walk.

“Stay focused,” said Blais Comeau. “That means you’re not texting at the same time, you’re not having your lunch and the same time, or don’t come to a halt right away. It could just have that domino effect.”

Nosik said pedestrians should also keep an eye on the flow of traffic on a particular sidewalk to avoid impeding others as much as possible.

“Pay attention to see if there’s an actual flow of traffic taking place on that particular sidewalk that you’re on,” she said.

“Are people mainly moving in one direction on one side of the sidewalk versus the other? Pay attention as well to across the street. Are they using the sidewalk that you’re currently not using to walk one particular way and vice versa? All it takes is that type of awareness.”

Kosik added that people going outside should also take notice of restaurant patios in the area.

“If you’re walking on the sidewalk, stay furthest away from the restaurant or the seating area as possible,” she said. “If you’re going to walk in an area where there’s a lot of restaurants outdoors, you might want to consider wearing your mask again. It’s just a question of making other people comfortable.”


Similar to the signs seen in grocery stores, condo buildings and workplaces, etiquette experts agree that following signs in a public space is crucial to being courteous outdoors.

“You should follow any guidelines, any rules when you are in a public space and when in doubt, find out,” Julie Blais Comeau, chief etiquette officer at, told in a phone interview. “Find out by asking authorities, management, supervisors, find out by looking, sometimes just observing.”

Since the start of the pandemic, signs encouraging safe recreation have been popping up everywhere. In Toronto, city officials closed down some streets during the summer weekends to help people get outside safely, while some other roadways were designated as “quiet streets,” where drivers are encouraged to slow down and share the road with pedestrians and cyclists.


There are also some technological options that can help keep you away from others while outside.

MapinHood, a navigation app offering routes for pedestrians, includes a “social distancing mode,” which uses historical foot traffic data to suggest a route that is unlikely to be busy. Google Maps and Apple Maps also offer information on road density and information on when an area might be most crowded.

Kosik added that phones can also keep us connected and distanced while out enjoying the weather. While walking with a friend, she will call her friend on the other side of the sidewalk and talk to them using headphones, so they can socialize with each other without yelling and while keeping everyone safe and distanced.

“You can still have a comfortable conversation with them, but still be in their presence at a safe distance,” she said. “We don’t think of using our technology help us create a scenario where we can see people that we still need to keep our distance from.”

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Nicole Bogart
(416) 384-5000

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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