‘Sidewalk rage’ just as real as road rage

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 27th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It can strike anywhere you walk: the busy airport terminal, bustling city sidewalks, even grocery store aisles. You are on a mission, and that rambling slow walker is in your lane, stalling your progress. Your temper rises, you quicken your already-brisk pace and angrily brush past the slow walker.

Sound familiar? Turns out your temper may transcend any mode of transportation: You might have what social science experts are calling “sidewalk rage,” and it’s just as real as road rage.

Researchers have found that sidewalk-and-road-ragers share a common belief that people should abide by the rule of the road that slow-movers keep to the right. Ragers perceive breaking this rule as uncivil and take it as a personal affront.

One scientist even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale listing the traits of ragers, which include having derogatory thoughts about other pedestrians, feeling competitive, bumping into others without apologizing and not yielding when appropriate. Sidewalk ragers might also feel stressed when walking in crowded areas and mutter at or make threatening gestures or facial expressions at other pedestrians.

At their worst, those who display sidewalk rage may be unable to control their anger, leading to physical assault or property damage. Called intermittent explosive disorder, this pyschological condition could affect as many as sixteen million Americans.

But before your frustration with sluggish walkers turns into a domestic dispute, psychologists offer ways to manage your rage: Try to imagine stragglers not as idiots who shouldn’t be allowed on the sidewalk, but rather as lost and confused. Also, look up and ahead to get a better view of the sidewalk so you can navigate around “roadblocks.”

Most importantly, keep a cool head. Not everyone is a speedy stroller.