epistemic perspectives

Informing engineering from the cognitive sciences

Walking while social distancing

In order to stay healthy while social distancing, we need to go outside and get some exercise. In even moderately populated areas, however, there is a conflict between maintaining social distance and moving through the outdoors.

Many I have spoken with have been frustrated by encounters in which they believe someone else has behaved antisocially. In many of these cases, I suspect that the apparent antisocial behavior was simply due to the other person not knowing what exactly to do. This is fair because there is no real social precedent for such interactions. So let’s come up with a reasonable one.

The most common encounter type is when two people are walking on a path and they are likely to get a bit too close. In such cases, here are some simple conventions for who walks into the street:

  1. If it appears as if the other person might have difficulty walking into the street (including but not limited to if they are disabled or elderly), you walk into the street. 
  2. If you are walking on the left side of the road, you walk into the street. This is because it allows you to see oncoming traffic.
  3. If you are overtaking someone–whether you are walking, running, etc.–you walk into the street.
  4. If you are using a self-propelled vehicle such as a skateboard, bicycle, or scooter, you go into the street.
  5. If you are using a motorized vehicle, you should already be in the street.

Much of the behavior I have seen emerging has been consistent with this set of principles. This is good because it means that the principles are natural and therefore more likely to be adopted with minimal friction.

Let me know what  you think!


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