A few years back, a couple of weeks after I began my stay in Houston, Texas, I met someone who joked that he thought I must be British because he’d driven past me and noticed I was walking on the left of the sidewalk. I was a bit taken aback as I hadn’t been aware that there was a convention of walking on the right in America (or Texas? or Houston?) as if everyone was a car. And it must have been coincidence that I happened to be walking on the left when he’d passed.
After this I noticed that people did tend to walk on the right, but by now I wasn’t sure if I was just looking for proof, rather than being objective. Several months later I discovered Houston’s downtown tunnel system (background, map) where the quiet corridors were filled with scrubbed people in officewear, all walking on the right. It’s certainly a sensible and efficient convention but in air-conditioned tunnels it does lend an air of omnipresent computer control, as if everyone should be wearing silver jumpsuits.
“Please use other door.” Which other door?! This is the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. I watched visitors try one door after another (the middle one is locked too) before entering in wrath by the left-hand door — against the deeply internalized convention of going to the right in two-way traffic.
So, there are three explanations:
- In the US there is a convention of pedestrians passing each other on the right and there isn’t in the UK — something to do with Americans spending more time in cars?
- This convention exists in the US and is mirrored by a convention of passing on the left in the UK and I’ve been oblivious to it my entire life.
- This is all nonsense, and there is no such convention in either country.
Can anyone tell me which is correct?