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In a New York Times Op-Ed published Saturday, Alexandra Horowitz, author of the upcoming book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, took a scientific look at how to manage as a pedestrian on a packed Manhattan street.She shared some pointers gleaned from studies of how fish move efficiently in large schools:
1. Maintain the right distance. “First, avoid bumping into others (while staying comfortably close).”
2. Follow the leader. “For humans, following the person in front of you helps, on the most basic level, to form natural walking routes that become well populated. While we do not settle exactly in someone else’s slipstream, as fish do, we hover, preferring to look over the shoulder of the person ahead of us.”
3. Keep up. “Everyone must speed up or slow down with attention to those around them. This seems like a difficult calculation, until you realise how little effort you have to exert to walk next to a friend down the street.”
It’s all about attraction, avoidance, and alignment.
Naturally, most New Yorkers already follow these rules, likely without realising it. But in the midst of heavy tourist season, a refresher is always helpful.