Adding to left and right confusion

I have previously written about my left/right confusion. And I’m not alone, am I Miss Maudy?

But strangely enough I naturally walk on the left side of any footpath and move to the left if anyone is coming towards me. 

Well, actually, not strangely enough. Because I drive on the left. Actually, not just me. The whole bloody country drives on the left. (Oh dear. All those actuallys and the bloody! I feel a rant coming on.) It makes sense to walk on the side we drive. There’s such thing as physical memory, you know! Your body learns things so you don’t have to be consciously aware or think every time you do them. Like tying shoe laces and driving on the correct side of the road. And we know how wrong it feels at first to drive on the other side in those countries that choose not to do it the right way. 

In busy pedestrian thoroughfares, in Australia, people will group to the left. On escalators, people pass on the right and slow people keep to the left.  On stairs and in walkways at school, kids are often told to keep to the left. 

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Safety, politeness, consideration for others, ease and flow of pedestrian traffic!

(Of course there will always be the minority. Tourists from right hand side drive countries, with whom you do a little dance as you both move to the same side. And the just plan rude or ignorant.)

So what’s this got to do with London?

Well, they are obviously confused. 

In London it is each to his own. Walk where you wish. The forceful, and those with determined looks in their faces, don’t yield to anyone. 

But it gets worse. They drive on the left, right? (Actually, seeing how they drive in the narrow streets of London that’s debatable too, but for arguments sake we’ll accept that they are a left-hand drive country.) 

So why don’t the authorities bloody well encourage walking on the left?

Travelling on the Underground, you will find signs telling you to keep to the left and to keep to the right. Through London, this inconsistency abounds. In a city with so many people, you think there’d be a more considered approach. 

Some stairs say left. Some stairs say right. Some walkways say left. Yeah, you get the point.  I wish I took the photo of the keep left on the Tube stairs to prove my point that within one organisation, there is inconsistency. 

Keep right and overtake on the left. Imagine if you did this on the road?

Now we keep left!


Too bloody right, you do.


The inconsistency leads to people bumping into one another, to frustration, to social conflict. And bloody well pissed me off. 

Maybe it’s to do with joining the EU? (Here’s a free argument for the Daily Mail or the UKIndependence  Party.)

Or maybe they’re just dumb. But here’s a tip: if you drive in the left and overtake on the right, do the same on foot. It just makes sense. You know it does!

And if you think this is a silly thing to be annoyed about, let alone even notice, then you’re probably one of the people than wander all over the footpath as if you own it, oblivious to others, causing all sorts of pedestrian traffic mayhem. Order, I say. Structure. (Did I tell you I’m half German?)


21 thoughts on “Adding to left and right confusion

  1. Yes yes yes yes yes!
    Wholeheartedly agree!
    But I do think Sydney city streets are going the same way. The appears to be little order when walking through the city- just a general free for all. This is not helped by the head-down-walkers-on-their-phones. And the bike riders taking right of way through Hyde Park.
    Bring back order! And I’m not even half German!

    • Oh, don’t talk to me about head down phone users. Texters and those changing songs. Selfish and dangerous. I don’t get out of their way, preferring to stop (passive aggressive like) or swing my shoulder (plain aggressive like). That’ll teach them! One scared and annoyed texter at a time.

  2. We are a drive-on-the-right, walk-on-the-right society, except when you walk along a roadside and you are supposed to face the traffic which means walking on the left, but even then you stay to the right side of the sidewalk 🙂 I was very puzzled that Rom came from the UK where he drove on the left, but he never took care to walk on the left side of the sidewalk. If he were a student at our schools, he would have been beaten up because if you bump into aggressive folks in the hallways, you are assumed to be either deliberately provoking them, or you are exceedingly clueless and deserving of your fate.

    • I’ve done some research (read Googling stuff) and it seems the English don’t care about walking to one side (don’t even go with the logic of walking on the side on which you drive) coheres some posts by New Yorkers who are particularly surprised by this and say if it happened in NY, the walkers would face the same fate as those at Canadian schools.

      • Yep, American high schools for sure! It’s related to the way high school kids push weaker kids to the side or slam them up against the lockers (which is often seen in movies) – so if you bump into someone, you are deemed to be trying to push them aside, and viewing them as weak.

  3. I nearly had a punch on when survey writing – there was a question about accidentally driving on the right side of the road. I always drive on the right side of the road, I never drive on the wrong side of the road. I think I won in the end, but it was a close thing. Right means correct and not that amorphous and somewhat changeable pointy directional thing.

    • Yeah, you are totally correct and you only drive, and I dare say walk, on the right side. I too drive on the right side, which is the left. And I best you are fastidious in your care while texting.

  4. I really want an English person to weigh in on this. I also saw signs in London saying, ‘Stay Right’ in some situations and ‘Stay Left’ in others. I was mystified as to whether ‘having a side’ is just not a concept in England…or are people just non-conformist?

    In France, it was ‘drive on the right, walk on the right.’ But the streets are so narrow in many French towns that you nearly get killed by passing traffic / splashed badly in rain if you’re on the right, on the outside edge of the pavement. DH was drenched head to toe by a passing car in one French town. I still giggle at the memory. Even the driver of the car got the giggles!

    • I fear with my post on food, I have alienated all the English. I have researched the issue (read posts on forums and blogs). Seems the English don’t see it as an issue.

  5. I always nag my children to walk on the left, but then wander from left to right vaguely myself because I am easily distracted by birds, cakes in shop windows, interesting chimney pots, any garden, passing motes of dust..

    • Oh good mother, you! Teaching your kids for when they visit Melbourne or Sydney. I sure the pace of Tassie encourages a civilised stroll with time to look. So you are not included in the ones Miss Maudy and I run down.

  6. My problem exactly. trying to keep out of the way of tourists, lemmings and those on a mission is impossible.

  7. Too right! We are heading to the UK later in the year and I’ve been reading about having to stand on the right on escalators etc. that confused me no end because I thought they drove on the left like we do in Oz. Glad I’m not the only one that thinks they should do as I do and stand or walk to the left and pass on the right.

  8. OMG YES! We got taken out of year 4 class to be “taught” to stay to the left! I’ve learnt now! But those signs in London, all those years ago when I was last there, totally confused me – I wondered if it was with it’s proximity to Europe? But now you tell me they flip flop? So annoying!!

  9. And yes, as Dar said, people at my high school took walking on the right very seriously – heaven forbid you had to cross traffic to get to your locker!

    I wouldn’t really mind if it’s the right or the left I’m supposed to walk on, but the inconsistency would drive me crazy as well!

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