26 May 2017 | 10 °C

Opinion

What Kind Of A Walker Are You?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 6 months ago
What Kind Of A Walker Are You?
Photo by Gary Kinsman in the Londonist Flickr pool

We all have our issues with different modes of transport. Motorists and cyclists harbour immense animosity towards each other, and there's plenty of debate over whether the Underground or a London bus is the better way to get around.

But we're all pedestrians, so surely the pavements of London should be a harmonious and pleasant place? Alas no, because it's filled with different types of walkers who don't always see eye to eye. And, yes, urbane Londoners are just as guilty as tourists of falling into some of these categories:

The charging commuter

Ruthlessly efficient in weaving between slower walkers and getting from A to B in the fastest time possible, some even walk in a straight line pushing people aside as they progress. They are always in a rush, and we can only assume they're constantly late for a big meeting. Either that or they have very weak bladder control.
Favourite activity: Feeling extremely satisfied when they slip through a gap between two people that's just wide enough to accommodate them — a tut is always ready in case this manoeuvre isn't pulled off gracefully; it's clearly the other person's fault.  

The drifter

These people think straight lines are for conformists and like to drift into other people's paths just as they attempt to overtake them (drifters are notoriously slow). Beware the drifter near famous landmarks and coffee shops as their gravitational pull unfailingly attracts these meanderers into their orbit.
Favourite activity: Never looking behind before changing course and then appearing completely nonplussed as to how they have collided with a fellow pedestrian.

Screen walkers

Yes, we all have smartphones and yes, they are wonderful. But some people just can't be separated from their device and must walk with it held in front of them at all times — whether it be for reading, watching videos, or in some cases video calling someone (we find the latter particularly pointless). It's worth noting that screen walkers are not an entirely new breed; they are the successor to the still present, though increasingly rare, book walker.
Favourite activity: Not looking up, and assuming all other pedestrians will part to make way for them.

The lesser-spotted book walker. Photo by mista spoon in the Londonist Flickr pool

The stop and starts

Most people have the common sense to step to one side when coming to a stop, but there are some who believe that if you want to consult a map you should just stop exactly where you are and assume any people walking behind you will suddenly disappear into a parallel universe. Two particular annoying sub-categories are the 'baggage handlers' who will create an obstruction at the top of the stairs or escalator so they can pull out the handle on their wheelie trolley, and the 'Oyster catcher' — those who pause in front of the ticket gates to fish around for their Oyster card.
Favourite activity: Finding an extremely narrow stretch of pavement and coming to an abrupt halt when there is a line of people behind them.

Pram warriors

We're always ready to help those with children ascend stairs or to make room for them on the bus. But some parents see their child's mode of transport as an offensive weapon and use it to make jabs at other people's legs to force them out of the way.
Favourite activity: Accusatory looks at the other pedestrians as if they have just tried to mortally wound their child.

The superglued

Single walkers can be bad but a group can be a nightmare, especially if said group will go to extreme measures to stick together. They make a mockery of the filing in system when queuing for the escalator and materialise in many forms: the 'combine harvester' walks on the pavement several persons abreast forcing others on to the road to get round them; the 'crocodile' is a constant river of people that cannot be crossed by others who just want to get to the other side.
Favourite activity: Acting like the smog of London is so thick that if they are separated by more than a foot then they will be lost forever and will never find their way home.

That's our list but if there are any walkers we've missed, let us know in the comments below. Also let us know which type of walker you are, and which type of walker tests your patience the most.

For more on how to behave correctly, see our guide on how not to be a brolly wally and why it's OK to eat on public transport.

Last Updated 02 November 2016

James Guppy

Definitely a charging commuter - who detests idiots on I phones stumbling along not looking where they are going. Cyclists who bring their bike onto a packed pavement to save 30 secs avoiding some roadworks are bloody irritating too. Some people also have a knack of walking straight out onto a busy pavement without looking - maybe it's just as well they're walkers, as they could be in a car pulling out into traffic.

thelondiniumproject

This is SPOT-ON! Thought perhaps the "favourite activity" section of the stop-and-starter should really be its own category: those who hover (1) in front of lifts, (2) on either side of tube ticket gates/ATM machine, (3) converse in front of the loo entrance when they're not queueing and don't see the 28 people behind them waiting, etc!

Helen Stevens

Definitely a charging commuter.

These groupings and definitions are spot on! The bit with stop and start people thinking those behind will disappear into a parallel universe is genius.

What really worries me is that many of these people drive. If you don't just slam on the brakes, or turn without looking behind you in a car, why start doing it on foot? Same rules apply, people need warning you're not continuing on a straight line at moderate speed!

Helen Stevens

Also, I read once that those glued to their phones, etc. are called "meanderthals" - a nice play on meander and neanderthal ;-)

WharfRatJustin

There are also those who stare at their feet with great determination, e.g. with chin pinned as closely as possible to chest. Sometimes you see this happen when people run across a street between cars, like "if I try very hard to look, death will not come to me!"