“Sidewalk rage” is real! That’s the term for the extreme anger some people feel when they get stuck behind someone walking slowly. It’s like road rage without the car, and it’s common enough that researchers have done some new studies on the origins of sidewalk rage. For example: The city of New York recently measured the walking pace of thousands of city pedestrians. They found that smokers and people on cell phones really do walk about 2% slower than the average walker, while tourists holding cameras tend to walk 11% slower! The study also found that when groups of people walk side-by-side, they tend to walk more slowly.
So why does slow walking trigger sidewalk rage? Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher is a professor at Colorado State University who says a lot of it comes from the “shoulds” we all have in our head. For example: Many of us believe slower people should stay to the right and picture-takers should step aside. The thinking is that when we encounter someone who breaks one of these so-called “rules of civility,” then we’re likely to feel frustrated about it. Of course, you can always walk around a slow walker.
However, problems set in if you let negative thoughts linger, because that’s when you’re more likely to act out in a hostile manner - like intentionally bumping into people or yelling at them. Sidewalk rage can have negative effects on your health – like raising your blood pressure and your risk of depression.
Psychologists say the best thing to do if you experience sidewalk rage is to try to see things from the other person’s point of view. For example: Instead of thinking about how much of an idiot they are for walking slow, consider the possibility that they may be lost, or that they simply don’t know you’re behind them. Also, as our population gets older, experts tell us pedestrian speeds will get even slower. Or to put that another way: Get used to it.