Commonwealth / Japan Dopers: Walk on the Left?

In the USA we drive on the right side of the road. (I doubt that’s news to any reader, but I’m being thorough)

There’s a strong social tendency for folks to do other, non-automotive things on the right too. Walking on a sidewak, people generally form two streams, one going each way and each stream stays to its right. Ditto in airport terminals, train stations, etc where you have a wide concourse. A mob 40 feet wide going both ways will form into two 20 foot wide streams on the right side from their perspective.

Where there are double doors, folks generally go through the right one, reserving the other one for folks going the other way.

Presumably the legally-required driving on the right reinforces the social norm of walking on the right.

So the question is: In countries which drive on the left, do most people also walk on the left and go through the left door?

(Oh, and please, no jokes about right/left politics. I’m as appalled by our government’s recent behavior as you are.)

Well, purely anecdotal evidence, but when I visited Japan I noticed that when I approached someone on the sidewalk I would tend to step to my right while they stepped to their left, so we wound up doing that awkward back-and-forth shuffle. This happened more than a few times so I would concur with your assumption based on my own observations.

OTOH, I don’t remember any similar problems in Europe, so :shrug:

Here in New Zealand (where we drive on the left), I think we do have a slight tendancy to stick to the left in other situations. But more often than not, it’s quite ad-hoc. If I had to give it a number, I’d say we stick to the left about 60% of the time.

The situation might be different in Auckland, which we consider a separate, inferior country.

An easy way to spot this is to check which side the escalator is on as you approach from a corridor. If it’s on the left, you can assume most people walk on the left. (If there’s more than two escalators though, all bets are off).

Australians walk (and jog) on the left. Singaporeans, who also drive on the left side of the road, tend to do the same. However, being in London the past two months, I’m unable to discern much of a pattern in how crowds move (possibly the influx of tourists has something to do with this–and the fact that few people actually drive cars on a daily basis). There may be a bias to the left, but most busy places are so ridiculously overcrowded that the crowd swirls in all directions.

One difference I’ve noticed is that Australians stand on the left-hand side of escalators and let hastier people charging up/down the escalator pass them on the right. Londoners strictly stand on the right-hand side of the escalator, while those moving more quickly take the left.

I thought having the standers on the left and the overtakers on the right is more analagous to a driving situation–slow vehicles left/fast vehicles right–but the convention here is the opposite (in fact, I think the Tube has signs posted to that effect.)

I would certainly say there is a tendency to stick to the left when you are going up or down a flight of stairs here in the UK. On a pavement however, all bets are off. Where I live people seem to walk on any part of the pavement they please.

Of course YMMV

Depends what you mean by “Europe”, since everybody drives on the right on the continent.

I’d say the tendency in London is to walk on the left, but its certainly less pronounced in the busiest areas of the city for exactly the reasons that Jervoise listed.

I thought it was left some places and right in others. (I thought it was on the left when I was in Italy last year but will accept I was misremembering.) I will accept I was wrong on that one. (To be fair, I never tried to drive anywhere on the continent, so…)

Previous relevant threads:






It’s amazing what a little searching can do :smiley:

Without visiting GorillaMan’s threads, I can offer that people in Japan generally do stick to the left on the sidewalk. It’s actually more confusing when I return home than the driving-on-the-left thing.

And, just for the record, not all Commonwealth countries drive on the left side of the road.

I was recently in Prague, and climbed a church turret, 278 steps round and round. When coming down there was a column of people coming up, rather cozy, nearly claustrophobic, as the stairs were maybe 3 feet wide. There would occasionally be people coming up the"wrong " side rather pointedly. It made coming down really difficult because the stair was so narrow on the inside. (much easier to climb than go down).
There would be 4 people on the right, then two on the left then 6 on the right then 4 on the left… the effect was what a pachinko ball must feel like as i made my way down. It finally dawned on me that the offenders might be British and when i asked, the column erupted in a kind of sheepish laughter that let me know that they knew it was awkward but HAD NO CHIOCE!

Mini-hijack: Apart from Canada, I can’t think of a single one that drives on the right.

Nigeria changed over to driving on the right a few years ago. The reason was that it is surrounded by ex-French colonies who had copied the mother country.

OK, fair enough, and at least they’re a major player - the best I could find was Belize

Wow, this is a huge coincidence. I was going to ask the same question 3 weeks ago :eek:
I noticed this phenomena and was going to ask the same question. I’ve noticed ever since moving to the city, yes, people do move like traffic. Walk on the left, overtake on the right. I found it really strange. I asked a friend, and she said she’d never noticed, so I just left it… I thought it was just me :confused: but then again, she’s the kind of person who doesn’t notice a lot of things :rolleyes:

But it only tends to work with a big group of people all shoved into one path, they seperate leaving two paths of opposite flow. Helps movement I guess.

On a lot of elevators here* they have a sign written, “customer courtesy: please stand to the left” It pisses me off to no avail when two people stand together so no-one can get through!

*By here I mean Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, but I think the ones in the city do too because I haven’t noticed otherwise.

I haven’t noticed any particular trend. People seem to do whatever is easier.

The only general rule that I can think of is that when using escalators, you should stand on the right and pass on the left. Unless you’re in eastern Japan in which case you should do the opposite.

Yes, there are signs posted on the tube escalators telling you to stand on the right, and in some of the (narrower, busier) tunnels, I saw signs telling walkers to “keep left” as well.

Of course, I chalked this up to some sort of Monty Python-esque plot to confuse tourists… [This side! Now that side! Now back to the left!] :confused:

The funniest ones on the tube are the ‘no entry’ tunnels off the platforms, with the ‘exit’ one beside - everyone who knows the station knows that these are a failed attempt at a one-way system and walk straight through them, bewildering the tourists :smiley: