Random Walk Rules for NYC

Rules for creating a random walk in New York City, using pedestrian signals to pick your path. An analog wristwatch with a second hand will help with intersections that lack traffic signals.

  • Start walking in whatever direction you like.
  • At each intersection, check the pedestrian signals.
  • White walk sign in either direction? Cross the street that way.
  • Blinking or steady red in both directions? Turn the corner to stay on your block.
  • No traffic signal? You can use a wristwatch with a second hand to select a direction.
    • If the second hand is pointing between the 10 and the 2, proceed straight.
    • If pointing between 2 and 6 go right.
    • If pointing between 6 and 10 go left.
  • For two-way intersections take the rightmost route when the second hand is on the right side of the dial, otherwise go towards the left.
  • If you come to a dead end, then turn around and continue back the way you came.
  • Any direction that is unsafe, unwise or illegal should be excluded.

Modifications:

  1. When it’s time to wrap up your walk, eliminate any direction that doesn’t take you closer to home. This is a good strategy to take a randomized path to a specific location.
  2. Want to Northwest? Add a coin flip when the rules point you South or East and only go there when if coin comes up heads.
  3. A coin flip method that prefers North and South will avoid spending too much time at the rivers in Manhattan.
  4. A smartphone app that picks random numbers can replace the wristwatch method if you prefer.

Suggestions:

  • Use your walk to look for things you haven’t seen before
  • Look for things you don’t understand and try to explain them
  • Try things on your walk that you might not normally do, such as visiting a new kind of restaurant, trying out a playground swing or shopping in a store you’d normally ignore.

 

drafted by Rob Faludi 10/2012

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