By: Susan Gerle

I grew up as a polite conservative Canadian in Vancouver, Canada. Whenever I bumped into someone on the sidewalk I would say, “excuse me.” The person usually acknowledged my apology. As the demographic mix changed and the sidewalks got more crowded, fewer people took the time to say anything. I was frustrated by the lack of manners until I had the opportunity to visit some of the largest cities on earth.

Shanghai China has a population of 13,831,900 million people and is currently listed as the largest city in the world. In comparison, Vancouver Canada has 578,041 people (2006 census). Obviously, there is a difference!

My first introduction to Shanghai was in the back of a taxi so I didn’t understand right away what I would be up against if I was walking . I was there on business but had some free time planned for shopping. After getting a number of meetings out of the way, I decided to take a day off and discover a couple of the local market places.

My colleague had lived in Shanghai for a number of years before immigrating to Canada so was very familiar with the shopping districts. I was not. I had the street directions, also written in Chinese, thank goodness. I also knew where the local Starbucks was, because that was where I would meet my colleague later.

I figured that most of the workers would already be in their offices because it was after 9 AM. I was wrong. The sidewalks of Shanghai are never quiet. I also thought it would take probably 15 minutes to get to my destination. I finally arrived half an hour later after enduring the congestion. I now understood why no one said “excuse me.” I would have lost my voice by the time I had walked the first block!

When I finished my shopping, I gave myself extra time to get back to the coffee shop. It started raining and the whole crowded sidewalk came to a stand-still while people put up their umbrellas. Now, if you can imagine, umbrellas take up more room than a body. There was a great deal of shifting while everyone found a spot to stand. I was lucky because I was the tallest person in the crowd. There was a ceiling of black below me as I looked around as far as I could see.

Mexico CityAfter my experience in Shanghai, I figured Mexico City would be the same. I was surprised that it wasn’t. Mexico City has a population of 8,841,916 million people. I came to the conclusion that half the people in the city drive not walk. It is no wonder that people are restricted in the number of days they are allowed to drive their vehicles. They tend to get around the issue by owning 2 vehicles so they can drive each car alternate days. It takes 3 hours to drive from one end of the city to the other.

Whenever I reached a place I wanted to visit, there seemed to be lots of room for walking. I made sure I avoided being out on the streets at 2 PM though because that is the time for the main meal of the day for Mexicans. Otherwise, as a foot passenger, I didn’t have too much trouble!

New York City has a population of 8,363,710 million people and I figure that at least half of them are looking up and the other half are looking down at any given time. The ones who are looking up are normally tourists. There are a number of pedestrian collisions, but more as a result of not watching where one is going.

Where I found the heaviest congestion was in the stores. New Yorkers appear to love shopping. After my first experience, I realized I had to allow lineup time. Shoppers seem okay with the time they have to stand in line. I even noticed the odd person catching up on their reading.

The other line-ups were at restaurants. Again, no one was frustrated or rude. This was just part of the New York experience.

New YorkThe only time there is a real sidewalk traffic jam is when someone famous is in town, which occurs on a daily basis. While I was there, the US President Obama was visiting, as were Morgan Freeman and Oprah. The thing I learned quickly was to ask who the celebrity was so I didn’t spend time waiting around a sidewalk for someone I really didn’t want to see.

Times Square is really congested of course. Whether it’s early morning or late at night, the business of the sidewalks is constant. Because so many are tourists, there is always a carnival atmosphere. And if it’s too busy, just sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Source – Wikepedia – List of the most populous cities in the world

About the author:

Susan Gerle travels and writes and writes to travel! Check out her blog too for other articles at