We’ve all been there. You’re strolling down Sheridan Road and, suddenly, you’re left trembling with fear after a near collision with an oncoming skateboarder. He continues in his path unaffected and we, the pedestrians on foot, are left scarred with our fists clenched and our eyes squeezed shut.
As Evanston finally warms up, Sheridan will once again buzz with life between classes. No longer will students hide under hoods to avoid windburn. No longer will students opt for shuttles. Instead, the sidewalks will be full of lively students enjoying the warmth as they head to class. But the long awaited sunshine comes with consequences. Its arrival introduces a new dynamic to Sheridan – one, which many, like myself, find incredibly intimidating.
The reappearance of skateboarders and bike riders on the sidewalk can be scary. Dodging the ruthless riders is no easy task. And unfortunately, in the case of bike versus human, bike will almost always come out victorious. A Sheridan collision is a traumatic event in the life of a Northwestern student, requiring both physical and mental recovery. Fear not. In order to avoid the embarrassment and injury that can result from such a collision, we have developed a few tips for those of us who make our way to class on foot.
Choose a side and commit
When it seems as though you’re in the path of an oncoming bike rider or skateboarder, pick a side of the sidewalk and commit to it. Indecisiveness is your biggest enemy. The back and forth you-go-this-way-I’ll-go-that-way we experience in the hallways is not an option. The clearer you make your intended direction, the easier it will be for him or her to go around you. You can be indecisive about your feelings toward your roommate, your date for formal, and even your major, but not which side of Sheridan you will resort to in the case of an impending collision.
Be wary of your surroundings
Zoning out on Sheridan is only acceptable during winter quarter, for both social and safety reasons. Look around! You might see friends. How you choose to handle this we’ll leave to you. But, you might also see a less-than-coordinated skateboarder coming your way (here at Northwestern, we are not known for a particularly athletic student body). Red flags include questionable balance, uncontrolled swerving, or a perceived lack of confidence. In this case, it is highly encouraged that you ditch the sidewalk and head for the grass.
Take out your headphones
Unfortunately, walking does not involve a rear-view mirror. For this reason, we encourage you to take out your headphones and listen for what’s coming. You can usually hear a skateboarder or bike rider approaching behind you. If you hear this familiar sound, turn around to check that they’re paying attention and notice you in their path. Give a casual nod or, if you feel that simply won’t suffice, flail your arms. Don’t worry about doing too much; you can always turn it into a casual hair comb-through if you realize it wasn’t entirely necessary. However you choose to make your presence known, never leave your dignity in the hands of those on wheels. Be alert and always be ready to dodge.
Avoid walking behind tall people
Though it might be instinct to take cover behind someone taller than you, every experienced walker knows this is an amateur tactic. Walking behind someone tall only makes it harder for you to know what’s coming and for oncoming riders to see you. Should they decide to weave between people, as they unfortunately tend to do, you could be directly in their path without either of you knowing it. Unless you’ve chosen to walk behind a long-legged friend you can use as a human shield, be aggressive and make your way in front of them.
When in doubt, dodge
This is perhaps the most important doctrine for any springtime Sheridan walker. If you’re feeling a bit uneasy about an oncoming rider, for any reason at all, don’t leave it to fate. Take action and dodge. The grass is your friend – embrace it! Should you find yourself skeptical of an oncoming rider’s coordination or attentiveness, dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Who knew Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn had so much wisdom to offer Northwestern students?
Learning when and how to dodge on Sheridan is crucial for those of us who wish to walk to class while keeping our dignity intact. By following these five simple rules, foot pedestrians all over campus can enjoy the sunshine without the perpetual fear of being run over by skateboarders and bike riders. You can never be too aware or too cautious. Remind yourself of the protection the patch of grass beside the sidewalk has to offer. When in doubt, trust your instincts and head for it. Crisis averted.