The ultimate guide to walking in NYC

How many times have you seen this happen before: a tourist from it-doesn't-matter-where steps out of Penn Station, sees the Manhattan skyscrapers, and 1) loses all concept of how sidewalks work, and 2) loses sight of the fact that they're also walking around the residence and workspace of a population larger than 39 other US states. If only they had some sort of guide to help them navigate New York by foot, like oh, THIS ONE.

Editor's Note: Please forward this to any friends, relatives, or Summer camp hookups who're thinking about visiting NYC and suck at walking. (So, all of them.)

Walking NYC
Flickr/Kevin Dooley

Getting Around

The first thing to understand when walking through New York is how New York works. And despite how intimidating it might feel, this city is mostly extremely easy to navigate.

1. Know where you are, and what direction you’re going
This seriously couldn’t be easier. The streets in Manhattan are numbered in ascending order, and the avenues are numbered going East to West. So if you don’t know where you are, just walk to the nearest intersection, step to one side, and look at the street signs.

2. The Fifth Ave split
Don't be the people who show up at some dude's apartment instead of your showing of Jersey Boys just because you messed this up; notice that some addresses are on a West street and some are on an East. Fifth Ave marks this divide, and the counting starts at zero and goes up in either direction. So if you need to go to 242 West 14th St, that’s approximately two-and-a-half avenues West of Fifth.

3. SoHo, Chinatown, and WTF
Okay, even New Yorkers sometimes need help here sometimes. Once you get SOuth of HOuston, (see how that works?) or into the West Village, you’ll notice that the streets stop being numbered, and the grid stops making sense. As for Chinatown, it’s totally acceptable to get your phone out and look for directions. Just… follow the etiquette instructions below.

How to walk in NYC
Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik

Sidewalk Etiquette

Nothing makes you more obvious or annoying as a tourist than acting like you’ve never seen a sidewalk before. “No way! Is this all for me?!” No. It’s for everyone. Kindly behave like a person.

1. Keep to the right
Also, if you need to get around someone, feel free to walk in the street a bit.

2. Nobody cares about your traveling pants
None of this spread out, four-abreast, slow-walking BS. It may make you feel cool, but if you and your friends take up the entire crowded sidewalk just so you can feel like you’re in Sex and the City or Entourage, I’ll be hoping for an errant cab to clip the person on the end.

3. Think about where you’re taking that photo
Are you in the middle of a busy sidewalk? Are you then stepping an additional 6ft back to make sure you get your whole family and the object behind them in-frame? Then accept that it might take you 10 minutes to find a window where none of us are walking through your picture, and that no, you do not get to complain. If we waited for every picture, nobody South of 59th St would ever get anywhere.

4. Mind your luggage and your children
If you’re pushing a stroller in front of you or dragging a huge, rolling suitcase behind you, you can still admire the height of our buildings, but you also need to keep tabs on where those wheels are and whose foot they might be running over. Because nothing says “Welcome to New York” like having your Samsonite kicked into the middle of 7th Ave.

5. Step to the side
Finally, if you need to break the flow of traffic to do anything (fight, kiss, Snapchat, literally anything except for walking to your destination), step off to the goddamn side. Would you stop your car in the middle of the highway to tell your girlfriend those pants make her look like her Mother? No, you’d pull the hell over. Same rules apply here. Also, don't do that.

How to walk in NYC
Flickr/Little Larry

Crossing the Street

Nowhere do tourists behave more like lemmings than at intersections. “Should I walk? Well that guy walked, so I guess I should walk… oh crap, shouldn’t have walked! Car! Car!” You can literally stand on the corner of 42nd and 7th and watch that exact thought process play out over and over again. So here’s a really basic list of rules to help you jaywalk correctly, and avoid being one of those people.

You should walk if:
1. No cars are coming
2. A car is coming, but it’s at least a block away
3. Cars are gridlocked, and not about to start moving as you weave through them
4. You have the little white “walk” man

You should NOT walk if:
1. A car is coming. Especially if it's a cab.
2. You saw someone else walk but aren’t sure how he knew to do that. He's a pro; don't follow.
3. You have luggage/children, and you don’t have the light
4. Common sense indicates you shouldn’t. Common sense should be exercised throughout, in fact.

NYC Walking Guide
Flickr/Danielle Scott

Final Pro Tips

Finally, these are just a couple more miscellaneous suggestions to help you suck even less at walking around NYC:

1. When you’re ordering food at a cart or truck, think about where you’re going to go to eat it
Standing directly in front of the cart will only block the sidewalk, the cart, and new customers from it. You’ll be simultaneously pissing off everyone. Don’t do that.

2. Don't take the demo CD, don't go to the comedy show, and worry about human rights another time
Guys will try to hand you their demo CDs, comedy show wranglers will try to pull you in, and people will ask if you have time for human rights -- they know you’re a tourist. If you’re not interested in buying what they’re selling (and most times, you shouldn't be), it's okay to just ignore them -- as long as you aren't a prick to them.

Eric Dobesh is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and when he’s not staring creepily at tourists for source material, you can find him on Twitter and Facebook.