October 23, 2021

Sidewalk etiquette

Remember to keep your distance, indoors and out

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Two pedestrians step back Tuesday afternoon to allow the Holland family to pass along South Main Street in Homer near the post office. Giving extra space is becoming more common with the worldwide threat posed by coronavirus. From left are Dave, Ben, Stella and Kira Holland.

Social distancing does not come normally for most of us. And practicing it can be difficult, especially if other people are less than cooperative.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to follow the expectations” of public health directives, including social distancing in the time of coronavirus, said Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin.

That applies even outdoors. But even outdoors, social distancing can present new social challenges.

Let’s say you’re sick of being cooped up at home and want to go for walk and get some fresh air. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that’s fine — the current prohibitions don’t confine people to their homes.

But there are other folks outside doing the same thing, and your paths are likely to cross.

For instance, Tuesday afternoon, Dave and Kira Holland were walking their children, Ben, 2 and Stella, 5, north along South Main Street in Homer near the Post Office as a man and woman approached them from the opposite direction.

In a situation like this, what should you do if you approach someone as you’re walking?

Maintain 6 feet distance, Tobin said, suggesting “people walk to the right, just to make sure that they’re respecting each other’s personal space.”

“It’s 6 feet apart,” said Nicole Anjeski, a public health programs manager for Cortland County. “It would be the same as if you were in a store.”

“Our goal is to respect everyone else’s wishes,” said Kidra Holland, a teacher at Homer Elementary School. “Our ultimate goal is to protect our families.”

But not everyone takes kindly to being avoided like this in the street. You may have noticed this already — some people get miffed if you try to walk conspicuously around them.

Tobin said no one should take offense from social distancing, or from people reminding them about it.

“I should not be offended if someone reminds me,” he said. “This is something that everyone at this point should be aware of and should be practicing. We’re going to expect everyone to be good community members and make sure that we’re not putting each other at risk.”

Will city police warn people to maintain social distance?

With small groups, no, he said, partly because police won’t be able to tell if people are members of the same family.

But larger groups of people will likely hear from police, Tobin said.

“At large gatherings, yes, there will be feedback from police,” he said, although he did not suggest tickets would be issued.