Monday, July 22, 2013

Sidewalk Bumping

This weekend, I put together a quick survey entitled “Sidewalk Bumping in New York City.” It consisted of 10 mostly multiple-choice with some write-in questions. I put the link on my Facebook page and quickly received 100 responses (the limit set for free surveys on Survey Monkey). The purpose of the survey was to explore New Yorkers’ experiences of being bumped by other pedestrians on the sidewalk--who's bumping them and what happens during that exchange?

The small sample size and limit to the number of questions contribute to this study not being especially scientific. Consider it a pilot study. (If I decide to shell out the $17 a month to Survey Monkey, I may launch it again to get more responses.) Also, people's responses are obviously subjective. Controlled field studies would provide more measurable results. (Any social psychologists out there interested?) Still, the findings offer some provocative trends to consider.


Demographics
Most of the people who responded to the survey were women age 40 and over (53%), with men age 40 and over as the second largest group (25%), and the remainder were split 50/50 between men and women under the age of 40. This age spread is consistent with the readership of my Facebook page, and may also speak to the fact that women tend to be more active there than men.

In addition, the vast majority of respondents (73%) have lived and/or worked in New York City for 20 or more years.



Is it getting worse?
When asked “How often do you get bumped on the streets of New York City,” most respondents (59%) said only “sometimes.” However, the majority of respondents agreed that they are getting bumped more often than in the past, and most of those said that the situation has gotten worse largely in the past 5 years (52%).

Is height a factor?
I wondered if shorter or taller people were getting bumped more often than average-height people, but that theory did not bear out. Average-height people were actually more likely than short and tall people to say they’re “often” bumped.



Who’s doing the bumping—and to whom?
Whether they’ve been in New York for only 5 years or more than 20, male or female, and across the ages, the majority of respondents said that the biggest sidewalk bumpers are women in their 20s and 30s.

With 55% of the overall vote, young women bumpers beat out young men bumpers, who received 30% of the vote. The remaining categories (teens, and adults 40 and over) had insignificant numbers. 85% of the total bumpers are in their 20s and 30s.

Breaking down the question by the gender and age of respondents, men age 40 and up chose young women bumpers by 58%, and young men by 37%. For women age 40 and up, the numbers were lower (young women 53%, young men 29%). Men 40 and up say they're being bumped by young men more often than women 40 and up do.

For respondents in their 20s and 30s, 55% of young men selected young women as the biggest bumpers and 33% chose young men.

Young woman on young woman bumping is the highest of all, according to 60% of female respondents in their 20s/30s. However, young women say they are being bumped by young men at a significantly lower rate than any other group—a mere 10% selected young men as the biggest bumpers. From this, we might conjecture that young men give more space to young women due to physical attractiveness and its attendant social status. Studies have shown that young, attractive women are given more space on sidewalks, in general. Young women might also be bumping each other in a competitive way.

In addition, two respondents identified outside of male/female, one as a "tall cross-dresser" and the other as "androgynous." The second respondent reported, "the fact that I look the way I look is likely why I get bumped hard often." They both selected men, younger and older, as their biggest bumpers.



art by Desirre Jones


What do people do when they're bumped?
Young men most often opted to stand their ground and take the hit, and none chose to yield, while young women, along with men 40 and over, were more likely to yield and move out of the way, though some chose to stand their ground.

While a few in the above gender and age groups hit back, they don’t hit back like women over 40. Most older women in the survey (65%) said they “hit back hard.” They were 3 times as likely to hit back than older men were, and 9 times as likely to hit back than both younger men and women were.

This multiple-choice question also included a write-in "other" section. Some sample responses:

- Put my forearm across my midsection, elbow on the side of the offending party--results in 75% reduction.

- Curse them out New York style after being bumped. "Fuck you asshole!"

- When there is a group of 3 or more abreast coming towards me on a narrow sidewalk and it becomes clear that the one(s) to my right are not going to yield, I put my arms up as if blocking a tackle and keep walking. If they don't move, they get bumped.

- I used to move but not anymore...usually hit them with heavy grocery bag 

- Pass on the right. Tell them they will never have this problem again if they pass on the right. How do people NOT know this?!

- Beep like a car.

- My latest when about to be bumped is saying in a loud voice "BEEP BEEP!"

- I yield or just say "Welcome to New York City! Please keep to your right!"

- Either shoulder down and bump or purse at balls height

- Lay prone and wait.


In which part of town are you most likely to get bumped?
This was a write-in answer and the responses varied. Some were more descriptive, such as “white neighborhoods,” “snooty areas,” and “anyplace with a sidewalk.” 9 people said “Manhattan.”

As for neighborhoods, the top three were: Midtown with 30 votes, the East Village/Lower East Side with 14, and Times Square tied Greenwich Village for third place with 9 each.

Also making it onto the board with more than a few votes were Chelsea and Soho with 8 votes each.



street sign by Jason Shelowitz


What do you notice about the people bumping you the most frequently (their race / class / gender, what they're carrying, what they're doing, etc.)?
This was another write-in question and answers varied widely, but some trends stood out. At the top, with 40 mentions, were people using cell phones to talk or text. Next, with 26 mentions, were women. And with 24 mentions, white people.

After that top three, youth was mentioned 18 times, middle- and upper-class status (including words like “privileged” and “entitled”) was noted 17 times, men and people in groups both got 15 mentions each, and tourists were mentioned 14 times. Some of these categories were combined, such as "white men in groups," or "young women on cell phones." I've tallied how many times each descriptor was noted.

Mentioned less than 10 times, in descending order of frequency from most to least, were also:
-People carrying large bags, either handbags or shopping bags
-Asians
-African-Americans
-People walking on the left side
-People in a hurry, looking busy
-People pushing strollers
-Older or middle-aged people
-Dumb people
-People with umbrellas
-People wearing large, trendy sunglasses
-Kids
-People carrying Starbucks or another “portable drink”
-Hispanics
-Shoppers
-Suburbanites
-People carrying yoga mats



Conclusion
According to these findings, there's more bumping on the sidewalks than just five years ago. This may be due to the increased use of cell phones, especially for texting, as well as a shifting population due to gentrification.

In a growing sector that may have to do with increased socioeconomic status, young white women, especially those using cell phones, are bumping their way up and down Manhattan, especially in Midtown, the East Village, and Greenwich Village. No matter who you are, you're getting bumped by them, but if you're also a young woman, you're getting bumped by them more. When that happens, you usually get out of their way.

Young men, you like to make room for young women. (Chivalry is not dead.) However, you don't do the same for women over 40--you bump them.

If you're a woman over 40, you often fight back against the bumping--with body slams, elbow jabs, hip checks, and obscenities. (Whoever you are, do not bump into a woman over 40. You will be sorry.)

Men over 40, not only are you being bumped by young women, but young guys are gunning for you. You usually get out of their way. (Probably a smart move.)

As for tourists, they're actually not as bad as we thought.



from Improv Everywhere


Addendum: Most memorable bumps
I asked people to share their most memorable experiences of being bumped. Here is just a handful:

- A bum once pretended that I bumped him, so he could drop his half-eaten hot dog, and wail "Oh miss! You owe me a hotdog!"

- 86th and Lex- Woman in yoga clothes with a big-ass bag on the crook of her tiny arms walks right into me and slams me with her bag. I called her a "fuckin bitch" and she looked all shocked like she just suddenly realized she's actually amongst people, sentient beings that think and talk! Get outta here!

- UES: A high school boy heading straight toward me while I was holding a very large and heavy hardbound book in my left hand. I was all the way to the right on the sidewalk and he refused to move over, not noticing the huge book right at his crotch level. He walked straight into it at a pretty good speed and doubled over in pain while his friends laughed at him and told him he should watch where he was walking.

- Just last week got bumped with something off a stroller..they did not even turn back..and I was black and blue later.

- I was on Saint Marks Place, where I live, on a weekend evening soon after NYU came back into session. The East Village sidewalks were filled with student types. A bunch of young white men came walking in a pack. As they passed by, one of them bumped me so hard he nearly knocked me off my feet and I ended up clinging to a tree to keep from falling. I let out a shriek. No one noticed, no one slowed down so I could reenter the flow of walkers. It was like I didn't exist. Couldn't help thinking it was an age thing—being in my 50s I was invisible to them all.

- Bumped by woman smoking on Broadway on UWS. She blew a mouthful of smoke in my face and when I protested she said go back to where you're from we are free to do this in America!

- It would be more accurate to say that I was the bumper as I was jogging on the sidewalk, encountered a zombie who had suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, naturally right in front of me. I yelled "heads up" but the email must've been so important that he couldn't be bothered to even look up. So I just body-checked him and kept going.

- I was on crutches (broken kneecap) and crossing 14th St. at 8th Ave. when a women came from behind me, didn't see me and kicked my crutch out from under me. I had to grab her arm to keep from falling down in the middle of the street. At first, she didn't seem to understand what had happened and I yelled at her that she had almost knocked me down in the street.

- Some business-dooshbag in Grand Central was heading straight @ me so I stopped, held my arms out and when he walked right into me, I gave him a hug & said, "come here, ya big galoot & give me some sugar".

- 25 years ago, I attended art school in midtown east, I was carrying a giant portfolio that was unwieldy. A VERY tall man bumped hard into me, he was wearing a light-grey super fuzzy mohair sweaters. My face went squarely into his sweater arm, complete with deep red lip gloss that I had JUST applied before leaving school. He did NOT apologize and just walked away. I did not feel one iota bad because he was a total jerk. I hope his wife/partner/lover etc. gave him shit when he arrived home - for having huge goopy lip prints on his spendy sweater.

- 53rd Street between Madison & Park Ave. Man in his 40s carrying long umbrella with curved handle brushes past me in a rush, but gets his umbrella handle caught on the pocket of my light, floaty summer dress. Pocket tears and I freak out & scream. He removes his umbrella, says nothing, barely looks at me, and keeps on going.

- after lip/face surgery , walking to the store and 11 pm and girl on the corner talking ..flung out her fist as i crossed the street and hit me in the mouth ... she kept on talking and laughing..

- I'm a senior walking home with a large backpack full of groceries and carrying a full shopping bag. I was making it over to a step to rest when 2 runners (men in their 30s) came around my left side. There was very little space between me and the building. The first one made it past without hitting me but the 2nd one didn't. I put my groceries down and looked up to see one of the runners coming toward me. I shook my fist at him. He came up to me and said that we have to accommodate others on the sidewalk, share the sidewalk. I asked him why he had passed me on the left and he said he didn't know that I was going that way. He kept repeating that we need to share the space. I said goodbye and he stared at me and said "you are a horrible person" I said he was a horrible person. He left saying that if he passed me again he'd hit me so hard I'd really know it. All this from someone who had bumped into me!

- I once got bumped into by Jackie Mason in the Theatre District somewhere. I remember he was short. We just moved on.

- Michael Stipe & I bumped into each other coming around the corner of B'way & 4th. We each said "sorry."

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please would someone PLEASE take this up everywhere -- every middle and high school, every college, art school, grad school, every BAR and business... make it part of GETTING A JOB IN NYC. The young people are getting worse by the day, not the year. Make Public Service Announcements. People with canes, crutches, older people with bags... young people do not see any of them.

Aaron Tsuru said...

Oh man. Can we spend a moment and talk about veering? What's the deal with humans unable to walk in a straight line. Add smartphones to the equation and I'm this close to "bumping" from behind just to prove a point....... sigh

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Ah yes, the invisibility factor of age! I get pissed when trying to get out of a store while people are shoving in, assuming they have automatic right of way. And that irritating " no problem" response if you try to be polite yourself. They're the problem. Of course it's crowded, so you know there's always going to be jostling, but there is a mindless egotism to a lot of the shoving. I came to NY with passive,over the top English politeness, but am now a seasoned "asshole" mutterer. We're all in such close proximity here, there can be something beautiful in the tiny movements of everyone making their way around the city, and the way we're all so close - you have to think of Whitman - but selfishness is not part of that dance.

Anonymous said...

Lived in Paris for five years before returning to my native New York. Found that I was getting bumped there far more than I was here. Biggest offenders were fashionably dressed young women who would come at you at full speed, expecting people to dive out of their fabulous way all along the route.

Macheath48 said...

I think I must have been bumped into (and on several occassions nearly knocked down) by everybody who insists on texting while they walk. On any given weekend in the Village or along Prince Street, hundreds of people are getting these VERY important messages and it is urgent that they keep their heads down, their eyes glued to the phone's screen and they have to text as they plow along knocking over everybody in their path. THAT, more than jay-walking, should be a violation.

Anonymous said...

Ooh! I was quoted!

But I forgot my least favorite type of person: The Umbrella Stabber. This one carries a large umbrella with a pointed tip closed in their hand (when it isn't raining) and swings their arm so that its point keeps swinging back to me right at crotch level. Those idiots deserve the curse-filled harangue I give them.

Anonymous said...

This is all discussed in a recent Amazon Kindle e-book called Urban e-tiquette, rules and rants for multitaskers, the distracted, and the oblivious -- a guide to movement and behavior in the modern city. The pathologies of sidewalk movement and dynamics are discussed, along with rules for getting on and off trains, elevators, and escalators. The author is hilarious, pulls no punches, and calls things what the are. He talks about how people "micro-murder" each other by wasting each other's time being in each other's way, and the seconds we waste collectively add up to a human life being lost every 2.6 billion seconds when shaved from millions of people. Worth the read, if only for the humor -- he calls the people who block the subway doors: door sphincters. He's got names for all this crap.

laura said...

do the facebook cell phone people get bumped? if they dont, they should.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be epidemic in all places big and small. Many people, especially younger ones, have no sense of how to walk in a city - or anywhere, having been driven places most of their lives. Often they have have no clue even where they are in relation to a moving crowd, as they bob and weave all over the place. Time to start carrying one of those old style bike horns with the rubber bulb - HONK, HONK!!! And maybe a small shield.

Anonymous said...

Asian women, esp. twinkies, are notorious for bumping into people without saying sorry or excuse me, walking into traffic, not holding the door, and when you hold the door for them, they don' t say thank you.

gregbrophy said...

I lived in London and if you walked on the wrong side of the side walk, they went right through you. I learned that lesson fast. I was at fault, I was on the wrong side, but overall once you were walking like the traffic patterns, on the left, it was very smooth.

What really gets me are people trying to get into the subway car before anyone has gotten off. If someone is standing in front of me and doesn't make room for me to get off, I just stand there and when they try to get on I stop them. Boy they get pissed and I kindly say "oh I am sorry was I in your way" and push right through them.

JAZ said...

Been here my entire life, and if there is ANYBODY who says they aren't bumped into way more than in the past, they are simply lying. And women under 30 are by a massively large margin the most prevalent offenders. I'd like to believe that they are drawn by my rugged good looks into intentionally initiating contact, but I have a feeling it has a tiny bit more to do with 'lol', 'omg', and whatever else they are texting into their i-master.

Just walking into a bar in large sections of this city tells a strong tale; most women, and quite a number of men, sitting next to other living beings, yet focused straight down to their i-screen. Probably tweeting about the awesome crowd they are drinking with.

Anonymous said...

I am a small woman and am constantly bumped. I try not to bump, since I don't like getting bumped myself. Worst offenders are other women with bags and men with umbrellas. Really, be a man and do not use an umbrella. Worst people for me to bump into are young black women, they get really angry, even after a profuse apology.

Worst bumpish experience was when a young man picked me up and moved me aside so he could keep walking.

Anonymous said...

By far it's the German and Asian tourists. They travel in groups and spread out across the sidewalk, with strollers, and bags, talk super loudly and walk in fits and starts. I dread weekends in the summer because of tourists. Doesn't feel cosmopolitan for some reason. More like a hive of ravenous, wealthy termites.

Jeremiah Moss said...

picked you up and moved you aside? that's the worst of these experiences i've ever heard.

Anonymous said...

Screens are the reality. Anything not on a screen is not real, and does not require attention. All important aspects of life happen on the screen. That's where "real" friends and "real" experiences exist. That's where relationships are established, shared, and ended. That's where you travel the world and see the sights. Anything not on the screen is strange, difficult to deal with, and hard to understand. You can't control something that's not on a screen; you actually have to allow it to exist, even if you don't like it. You can't delete or un-friend someone who exists outside of your screen. You actually have to make way for them! Who wants to live like that?

Anonymous said...

Why I love this blog. Makes me feel not crazy and alone for noticing these same things. So it's not just me getting older. Things really are getting worse. My thrill at being a New Yorker is waning because the city isn't what it used to be.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the smug couples who MUST at all costs walk arm in arm, side by side down the sidewalk.

Brandon said...

I'm surprised Times Square only placed third. How? It's literally impossible NOT to bump into people there. I'm a fairly recent transplant, only been here a year, but that is long enough to learn to stay far away from TS unless it is simply unavoidable. The tourists are completely absurd. I must have shoved right through three impossibly slow groups of them, and I always said "sorry, excuse me," but when one of them gave me lip I shouted back "fuck you, welcome to New York, learn to walk!"

Anonymous said...

My fantasy is for someone to take one of those loud air horns out to the street and walk around. Whenever someone is inconsiderate they get honked. Imagine someone blocking the subway stairs so they can stand and talk on their phone, then suddenly behind them "HONK!"
A taxi stops blocking the whole cross walk- "HONK" right in the driver's window. Better yet film it for Youtube!

Also speaking of bumped- what drives me nuts are when joggers run in the Central Park loop run 3 or 4 abreast. They take up the whole running lane and force you out into bike territory. Now they deserve to get bumped!

Anonymous said...

All this talk is just going to make the digitally mesmerized hive angry and they'll bump harder!!!

Anonymous said...

It involves some risk of injury, but when you see a zombie texter toward you, don't step out of the way. Brace for impact, and make sure the offender drops his or her phone.

The End of History said...

I had the best bump EVER, about 10 years ago I was walking up 5th Ave and right outside the Sherry Netherland Hotel a woman literally slammed into me because she was rushing from her car into the building. It was DIANA ROSS! Not only did I get all caught up in her wig/weave but she was wearing a skin tight black leather cat suit.
Needless to say I was too stunned to say anything and before I could she was gone in a flash!

Space Pope said...

From 1980 to 2000 I never got bumped. maybe because my leather jacket had 3" long drywall screws at every possible angle. And. yes, I did jab myself every mow and then.

Anonymous said...

First, it takes two to "bump." I strongly suspect that some of the people who complain about being "bumped" are actually the "bumpers."

Second, this is a city where everyone feels entitled to something. Some feel entitled not to be "bumped", while others feel entitled to "bump." In a crowded city, who's right? If you didn't want deal with "bumping" in some form or another, maybe you should have moved to Peoria.

Finally, I have to confess to being a hopeless and inveterate "bumper." I'm a little spacey and my mind drifts, and I don't always look where I'm going. It's a personality trait I and the people (and dogs!) I've "bumped" over the years have had to learn to live with. So I apologize in advance to any readers who I happen to "bump" into in the future. Have a nice day!

Jeremiah Moss said...

it also takes two NOT to bump.

and, no, the city is not a place where bumping is just supposed to happen.

it used to be that each person would see and accommodate the other, with a half-swivel of the body, pushing the shoulder and/or hips forward or back.

but now, people aren't doing that as much. so i do my half of the job, the other does zero, and we bump. i'm not doing 100% of the job, sorry. it's supposed to be mutual.

Brendan said...

There are inconsiderate jerks out there, but if you're getting bumped *all the time*, you're probably the bumper.

mch said...

I loved this post and the comments, and your last comment, Jeremiah. As an inveterate (apologetic) veer-er (unequal leg-length? something in my hip-leg alignment? I do not know, but it can drive any walking companion a little nuts), I prepare for lots of half-twists, shiftings of pocketbook and bags, plenty of stoppings and startings when I walk in a crowded place. I depend, too, on others to do their share of same.

Anonymous said...

I live in Washington D.C., and a New Yorker friend shared this on FB. I didn't realize this was so prevalent. THE WORST: D.C. subway platforms. Everyone's walking to their right on the crowded platform, but some twit decides he or she is going to get to the exit faster by weaving in and out of people walking in the other direction. And once one twit starts, it inspires the other twits, and then the platform turns into a cattle yard, and everyone's just pushing each other out of the way, stepping on feet, shoving, etc. It's RIDICULOUS. I get home covered with bruises.

Once, I bumped into a guy who stopped in front of a store and I didn't notice and I apologized right away, and he started screaming and calling me really insulting and vulgar names and turned bright red -- I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He was a maniac. It was actual a creepy experience.

Anonymous said...

Aaron Tsuru = my hero--VEERING is the problem. No one respects space w/ 90 degrees--you want to turn left, awesome. You *wait* 'til the person oncoming passes, then you turn.

Men who think 3 abreast = OK, and young women carrying their purses in the crook of their arm--whacking people left and right. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Let's just say that proper etiquette is missing in a lot of people this days, and if you point them out, or get angry at them, you're the bad guy, especially where I'm from.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. I'm a former NY'er who is currently visiting my son in London. I have never come across so many rude pedestrians. As mentioned I found 20/30 year old females are the worst. sense of entitlement. I also fit in with the over 40 yo women as I could no longer take it and used the upper arm/elbow action. Sometimes rolling ones eyes, muttering under ones breath just isn't enough. Oh, and how about people who it is clear that you are letting them pass in a narrow alley and they don't even nod, smile or say thanks. I live in north Carolina now and most people are so friendly and polite. It's not difficult to be civil.

Anonymous said...

I can't take the bumping anymore.

I'm a 41 year old woman (have lived in NYC for 22 years) and match the 'profile' of the fed up 'over 40' described in this post.

What I do now when I see the 20-something, entitled lady texting directly toward me is to call out, "Heads up!"

Their startled looks are hilarious and worth the small cut to my own dignity.

I only do this when it looks like I would otherwise have to jump onto the trash bins or the street in order to avoid impact.

Anonymous said...

Can we talk about the human cattle drive that is the SI Ferry. Its bump or go nowhere on that boat. The Asian tourist photo shoot that never ends, wheelchairs, and worst of all the packs of Eurostar tourists with strollers the size of 18 wheelers. I'm normally very courteous, but on the ferry I morph into a madman. I bump, veer, and yes I have even "repositioned" other passengers when need be. What other choice do I have?

Anonymous said...

I am so thankful for this post. I am a middle-aged African American woman from Brooklyn. Young white people bump me quite often. One time I cut off my hair and wore headscarves. I got bumped on an average several times a day, perhaps because people thought I was Muslim. Now that I don't cover my hair, things have gotten about 70 per cent better. Stop it, New York!

Anonymous said...

In the last year I literally broke my back due to cancer and am trying to heal my bones. So my bones are still fragile. I am an over 40 year old woman. I don't need a cane to walk, but I use one when I go to midtown. It's to keep people from bumping into me. It has nothing to do with me not being able to walk. I feel like people are more aggressive than they used to be, but that my be because I am seeing NYC through a new lens due to my health. I am often nervous that someone is going to clock me and do damage to my body. When I am with my boyfriend I feel safer, because I can hang on to his arm and people have to keep more of a distance. I know people must be cursing a storm behind us because we hold up foot traffic but I don't care. It's been kind of scary.