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A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running. In some communities, those traveling using roller skates, skateboards, and similar devices are also considered to be pedestrians. In modern times, the term mostly refers to someone walking on a road or footpath, but this was not the case historically.


Walking is the primary means of human locomotion. The first humans walked out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. They walked along the coast of India to reach Australia. They walked across Asia to reach the Americas, and from Central Asia into Europe.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, pedestrianism was a popular spectator sport just as equestrianism still is in Great Britain and the United States. One of the most famous pedestrians of the day was Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, known as "The Celebrated Pedestrian", of Stonehavenmarker. His most impressive feat was to walk 1 mile every hour for 1000 hours, which he achieved between the 1st of June and the 12th of July, 1809. This feat captured the imagination of the public, and around 10,000 people came to watch over the course of the event. During the rest of the nineteenth century, attempts to repeat this particular athletic challenge were made by many pedestrians including the renowned Ada Anderson who developed it further and walked a quarter-mile in each quarter-hour over the 1,000 hours.

Since the nineteenth century, interest in pedestrianism has dropped. Although it is still an Olympic sport, it fails to catch public attention in the way that it used to. However, pedestrians are still carrying out major walking feats such as the popular Land's Endmarker to John o' Groatsmarker walk, in the United Kingdommarker, or traversal of North America from coast to coast. The first person to walk around the world was Dave Kunst who started his walk travelling east from Waseca, Minnesotamarker on June the 20th, 1970 and completed his journey on October the 5th, 1974 when he re-entered the town from the west. These feats are often tied to charitable fundraising and have been achieved by celebrities such as Sir Jimmy Savile or Ian Botham as well as by people not otherwise in the public eye.

Health and Environment

Regular walking is very important for both a person's health and the natural environment. Obesity and related medical problems can be effectively prevented and/or cured by moving on foot on a daily basis. The widespread habit of taking the car for short trips significantly contributes to both obesity and climate change, owing to vehicle emissions, as internal combustion engines are extremely inefficient and highly polluting during their first minutes of operation (engine cold start). General availability of public transportation encourages walking, as it won't, in most cases, take one directly to one's destination.


Nowadays, roads often have a designated footpath attached especially for pedestrian traffic, called the sidewalk in American English and the pavement in British English. There are also footpaths not associated with a road which are used purely by pedestrians, particularly ramblers, hikers or hill-walkers and there are roads not associated with a footpath. Such footpaths in mountainous or forested areas are called trails. On some of the latter, pedestrians share the road with horses and vehicles whilst on others they are forbidden from using the road altogether. Also some shopping streets are for pedestrians only. Some roads have special pedestrian crossings. A bridge solely for pedestrians is a footbridge.

Under British law, regardless of whether there is a footpath, pedestrians have the right to use almost all public roads, excluding motorways and some special toll tunnels and bridges such as the Blackwall Tunnelmarker and the Dartford Crossingmarker. It is usually advised that pedestrians should walk in the opposite direction to oncoming traffic on a road with no footpath.


Efforts are underway by pedestrian advocacy groups to restore pedestrian access to new developments, especially to counteract newer developments where 20 to 30 percent do not include sidewalks. Some activists advocate large auto-free zones where pedestrians only or pedestrians and some non motorised vehicles are allowed. Many urbanists have extolled the virtues of pedestrian streets in urban areas. An exception is New York City, the only locality in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (the figure is even higher in Manhattan, over 75%; nationally, the rate is 8% [26428]). This policy severely restricts or effectively prohibits pedestrian traffic and contributes to excessive car use on short distance trips.

In contrast pedestrian traffic is officially encouraged in some parts of the European Union and construction or separation of dedicated walking routes receives a high priority in most large European city centres, often in conjunction with public transport enhancements. In Copenhagenmarker the world's longest pedestrian shopping area, the Strøgetmarker, has been developed over the last 40 years principally due to the work of Danish architect Jan Gehl, a principle of urban design known as copenhagenization.

The promotion of walking has been linked to the rebuilding of social capital.

Other uses

The word pedestrian is also used as an adjective having a figurative meaning of "unimaginative" or "ordinary." This is by implied contrast of a walker with an equestrian (horse rider). E.g. ‘’She wrote pages and pages of pedestrian prose’’.

Pedestrian can also be used to mean "common."

See also

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