I've heard various claims that "slow walking" (walking slowly in a road) is not illegal or at best its illegality is ambiguous. Is that true? To what extent is it legal to walk in a road? I can certainly imagine that this is allowed in some jurisdictions and types of roadways, and it seems reasonable (certainly slow biking would be a legal substitute almost everywhere). But I can't find anything definitive about it.

The relevant scenario I'm envisioning is one where (as recently in London) many small groups walk or bike through streets at a normal pace for brief periods, dispersing when asked by authorities (and possibly reforming elsewhere). So in a sense there are two parts to the question:

  1. Is biking or waking in streets permitted generally and,
  2. in cases where it is permitted, does it remain permitted if practiced in an organized fashion?
  • 1
    First, as is often the case, the place where it happens matters. Law on this question is not uniform globally or even between U.S. states and localities. Second, the description of the conduct in question is to vague to analyze. There are multiple kinds of conduct that could fit within the ambit of "slow walking" and it isn't really clear at all what is intended.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 17:59
  • @ohwilleke Good point. Some details added.
    – orome
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 18:40

4 Answers 4


In my State (Louisiana, USA), pedestrians may walk on the side of the road. No guidance is given on how fast they should walk. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk in the middle of the street. In the US, the laws for this will vary by state. Louisiana has statutes that say that pedestrians are bound by traffic laws, and obstruction of traffic is not legal on foot or in a vehicle. Basically, consult your local laws.

§216. Pedestrians on highways or interstate highways

A. Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent highway.

B. Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of the highway or its shoulder, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.

C. It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to cross an interstate highway, except in the case of an emergency.

D. Upon conviction of a violation of this Section, a court may order, in lieu of the penalty provisions provided in R.S. 32:57, that the offender perform three eight-hour days of court-approved community service activities, at least half of which shall consist of participation in a litter abatement or collection program.

§213. Crossing at other than crosswalks

A. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

B. Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

"Highway" means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for the purpose of vehicular travel, including bridges, causeways, tunnels and ferries; synonymous with the word "street".

  • Very different from the UK where pedestrians are allowed to walk on all roads unless explicitly prohibited by a specific legal notice for that road (generally only motorways and other fast grade-separated highways), even if it's dangerous.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 16:33

Laws may govern the speed of motor vehicles on highways, either stating maximum or minimum speeds. Pedestrians are not subject to any specific speed limits in any jurisdiction that I know of, but they can be subject to "conduct" restrictions. In Washington, RCW 46.61.250 states those limits. Stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk,the restrictions are that

(a) When shoulders are provided and are accessible, walk or move on the shoulder of the roadway as far as is practicable from the edge of the roadway, facing traffic when a shoulder is available in this direction; or

(b) When shoulders are not provided or are inaccessible, walk or move as near as is practicable to the outside edge of the roadway facing traffic, and when practicable, move clear of the roadway upon meeting an oncoming vehicle

Sprinting and slow walking at the edge of the road (when there is no shoulder) are legal, doing same in the middle of the lane is illegal. The law generally says "motor vehicles have to suck it up when there are pedestrians on the road". But walking (or bicycling) 6 abreast is illegal, because it is practical to walk (or cycle) single-file at the edge of the road.

  • So (at least in some places) it seems like walking or biking "normally" is legal, and much of any justification for interfering with walking or biking would hinge on what's "normal" or "reasonable".
    – orome
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 16:03

In , demonstrating in public is a constitutionally protected right. How exactly it can be exercised is restricted by law, but the laws must make protests possible.

  • For preplanned demonstrations, the organizers must contact the police with the planned route, an estimate of the expected numbers, etc. The police consider this estimate, the likelihood of counter-protests, and similar factors, and "negotiate" with the organizers about the actual route of the demonstration.
    When the organizers predict tens of thousands, and the police find that credible, a main street may be closed to motor traffic while the protesters march that way. If the police expect a couple of dozen to come (whatever the organizers hope), they may be told to stay on the sidewalk, with a lone patrol car to watch the traffic.
    When the organizers and the police disagree, the organizers can go to court and ask for an injunction. This commonly happens when the organizers feel that the police wants to "shuffle them away" out of sight ...
  • For spontaneous demonstrations, there are no organizers who could contact the police beforehand. When the demonstration has started, the police will watch numbers and regulate traffic according to the size of the protest.
    Again, a few dozen protesters will be told to stay on the sidewalk, while thousands will justify the closure of the road.

Organizers can try to pretend that a demonstration is spontaneous to get around the planning requirements. This is not legal, but the prosecution would have to prove it. (For instance, people might have "shared" the time and place on public internet forums.)

So as to your question: It depends on the number of walkers, in proportion to the location.

  • Maybe I should move to Germany!
    – orome
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 15:38
  • 1
    @orome, this only works if there are many people joining the protest. Otherwise it is protest on the sidewalks for you.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 16:25
  • Another reason for moving to Germany: "only works if there are many people joining"!
    – orome
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 17:18
  • @orome, check the news about climate protests in Berlin these days, protesters glueing themselves to the street to create traffic jams. Many of them get arrested.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 17:28
  • Yeah gluing is a whole other thing, and I think part of the point is to get arrested. (In the US they'd probably be shot.)
    – orome
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 18:14

In Illinois, pedestrians have the right-of-way. If you're walking slowly, I would presume many on the road would think there is something wrong with you and would wait. I would not be surprised if that was the general consensus, as most pedestrians do not want to chance being hit by a vehicle. I have walked slowly across the street when the time on the stop-light has run out, whereby I took my time crossing the road. It was not illegal because I was still granted the right-of-way.

Thus, the legal question may be asked in any alleged slow walking, "Do I have (if but still have upon such having had) the right-of-way?" That becomes a matter of reasonableness and proving up such reasonableness.

  • 2
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    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 16:20

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