Do Brits keep left when they walk, too?

When I walk to work, it’s through a series of enlcosed walkways and tunnels, with people going both ways. To avoid collisions, we all keep to the right, just like we do on our roadways.

My question is, do pedestrians keep left when walking in similar circumstances in the UK?

I haven’t been to Britian but in other countries I have visited where they drive on the left it appears that they do. I remember several times meeting someone on the sidewalk and stepping to the right to go around them just as they stepped to their left to go around me. Did that little awkward dance several times a day before I finally caught on. So, I would have to say yes.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Having just spent a week in London, I think there is no predominate trend.

Generally, yes, probably a majority of people keep to the left when walking (especially noted on the stairs in the tube) but not an overwhelming majority.

During rush hour, most people go with the mass of people that are going in their direction, whether right or left.

Them’s my observational notes. Of course, it is possible that London (having a large number of foreigners) is not a fair sampling.

This question came up on the old SDMB a long time ago, so when I went to Britain, I paid attention. I came to the same conclusion that CK did, that there’s no particular rule. But STAND on the RIGHT on the tube escalators!


“You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine.”

And, most importantly, don’t forget to mind the gap, either.


If your red lights are melting, you’ve parked too close.

I just thought of a question: in what countries do they still drive on the left? Britain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan?, Bangladesh?, formerly Sweden. Which ones am I leaving out? Do they post signs up on the Pakistan-Afganistan border saying “Don’t drive on that side of the road any more silly!”?

I think one of the reasons Sweden switched to the right was they were getting into too many head-on collisions with Norwegians. (That happens to me all the time.)

How about Canada? Did our moose-raising, free-health-care-enjoying, dark-beer-drinking friends to the North ever drive on the left, switching only to rescue their hapless neighbors from inevitable border discomfort?

We Brits do indeed walk down escalators on the left (there was another thread about this recently).

I don’t drive, so I do a lot of walking, but don’t think there isn’t any precedence. Remember that alert pedestrians are very manouevrable!

There is a pedestrian precinct outside Birmingham Station which is labelled ‘Keep Left’, but that’s the only one I know of.

In the bathtub of history, the truth is harder to hold than the soap… (Pratchett)

Add Singapore, Kenya and a lot of other African countries that were former british colonies.

There are several enclaves of left-driving in the US, open pit mines. The company I work for did an analysys a few years ago and now everyone in the mine drives on the left as it is safer and more efficient for the haul trucks. The safety issue comes from the experience of having head on collisions of trucks that carry 300 tons of rocks. Since the cabs are still on the left side the odds are good of surviving a crash where the right sides of the trucks make a kaboom. An an earth shattering, cataclysmic kaboom it is. The efficiency comes from the driver being able to better judge where the edge of the road is and avoiding tire damage from debris.

I certainly agree with the above that it is most common for Americans on-foot to pass each other on the right. I’ve always thought it would be more logical for us to walk to each others left however. We are taught to walk along the left sides of streets (so that you can step out of the way of approaching cars, but very few pedestrians do that.)

Add Ireland to your left-side drivers. When I’m visiting Ireland and we’ve had a few too many pints, my Irish friends like to make me feel at home by driving on the right side of the road.

What about biking? I always ride on the left so that I can see oncoming traffic, but you’re supposed to ride with traffic.

In India, you do tend to walk on the left side of the halls. I had the same problem as… darn, I forgot who wrote it. My sincerest apologies. But I too did that silly little dance as I walked on the wrong side of the hallway.

This was possibly the most pointless thing I’ve ever written.

“I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe.”

Tanstaafl!! It was Tanstaafl!!! Sorry… =Þ

I spent 3 years in the UK. When I first arrived, I kept bumping into people and doing the left-right-left dance in the halls. I talked to other Americans and they all observed the same thing. I assumed at first, that it was because we always stay to the right in the US and they stay to the left in the UK… So I start paying more attention and notice that, nope they are all over the place, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right… sheesh, why can’t they do it like we do in the States?

So on my very next visit to the states I observe what the American trend is… just to verify… Low and behold, there are no rules we duck and dodge just as much as they do in the UK.

So from this I developed a theory. When walking, we all choose the path of least resistance. Sometimes we’re on the left side of the hall or the sidewalk or whatever… sometimes we’re on the right. Generally, we all tend toward the right on stairs, because we are predominantly right handed and we use the rails to steady ourselves.

So why do we Americans dance so much in he UK? My theory is that we have subtle differences in body language. This seemed to be confirmed when I returned to the US after my three year stint, after becoming acclimated to the UK body language, found myself dancing in the halls here in the US for a week or so.

Anyway - that’s my theory.

Joey Blades,

I think you’re onto something! Certainly I notice this increasing ‘familiarity’ with the local currency when I travel (and my home currency looks odd for about an hour when I get back).

Can I say ‘Americans are generally more outgoing that the English’ and get away with it?

In the bathtub of history, the truth is harder to hold than the soap… (Pratchett)

Or, better, ‘Americans are generally more outgoing THAN the English’…

Boris, at ports such as Dover and Felixtowe they do actually have signs telling you not to forget to drive on the left. It may seem an obvious thing to remember, but if you arrive on a car ferry late at night, it’s dark and there is almost no traffic, invariably I drive the wrong way around the first roundabout I come to. And that’s with the signs!

London Underground etiquetter - stand on the right on escalators if you’re standing still and leave the left-hand side free for people in a hurry.


Struth mate, leave it out - you’re repeating some of my posts!

Besides, that is global etiquette / convention for escalators and moving walkways. Many undergrounds, airports, etc. have signs or audio systems that say “Stand on the right, walk on the left” (or something to that effect). I’ve seen / heard this all over the world, not just in London.

Actually, the ‘stand on the right/walk on the left’ rule for escalators is not quite global. In eastern Japan (including Tokyo), it’s ‘stand on the left and walk on the right.’ They even have signs posted to that effect. In western Japan they do it the same way as UK/US.

In Japan, bicycles running on sidewalks (there’s no room for a bike on the road) run on the left side. However pedestrians don’t seem to show any strong preference. But I did bump into more people right after coming back to Japan, so I agree that something else might be different. I wonder if it has to do with how soon you start your anti-collision maneuver?