Edinburgh Tourist Blocking Tactics

19 08 2011

Over the last couple of weeks I have been working for Three Weeks photographing various events around the Edinburgh Fringe. As a result I believe I have identified a concerted attempt by tourists travelling around Edinburgh to prevent the locals of Edinburgh from getting around by deploying several tactics to block the streets of Edinburgh. In my research I have identified the top 11 (top 10’s are so passee) tactics that I have seen working well. Feel free to let me know if I have missed any and I’ll add to the list.

1. The Walk Apart

This is the simplest of the tactics and involves the tourists walking side by side. There are two key elements to the walk though, the first is velocity which will be at dawdling pace and the second is spacing – it is key that the distance apart is just insufficient to allow the local to cut between the two tourists and also sufficient to ensure that the gap between roads and buildings doesn’t allow a sidewards overtaking manoeuvre.

Fig 1. The Walk Apart

2. The Chicane

This is a variation of The Walk Apart and is again a dawdling paced tactic. Here the tourists not only create a gap that is impossible to cut between, they also create an added dimension of one walking slightly ahead of the other, making the overtake much more difficult.

Fig 2. The Chicane

3. The Diamond

We are now getting into much more complicated patterns and using larger groups of tourists. I have noted that this one is particularly popular with the latin tourists (possibly due to the size of families) and is a combination of The Walk Apart and The Chicane. The tourists create a diamond shape which contains all the blocking difficulties of the first two tactics and brings them together into one of the hardest formations to beat.

Fig. 3 The Diamond

4. The ‘Look, Edinburgh has a Castle’

This tends to be a Princes Street tactic, and is most successfully deployed by the asian tourist. They lure the unwitting local into thinking that the tourist is ‘one of us’ by walking at a good pace – this is the case until they spring the surprise manoeuvre of stopping instantly to stand and stare at the Castle that suddenly appears from nowhere. The effect is almost impossible for the local to avoid.

Fig. 4 The 'Look, Edinburgh has a Castle'

5. The Crab

A variant of The Walk Apart which requires the tourists to walk in the same slow pace, however, as the local approaches for the attempted overtake, the tourists start to veer toward the road forcing the local to either slow down or move into the road and face the wrath of the Lothian Transport driver.

Fig 5 The Crab

6. The 90 Degree

This isn’t too dissimilar to The ‘Look, it’s Edinburgh Castle’ but can take place on any street that contains the tourist tat shops. As the tourist is drawn to the shiny things (or more likely tartan and ginger things) in the shop window they create a much larger obstacle as they stop and turn. The key element here is that one of the tourists will stand in the middle of the pavement whilst the other one stares.

Fig 6 The 90 Degree

7. The Umbrella

Really only used during the Fringe period when the annual monsoon season arrives. Here the cunning tourist uses the umbrella as a weapon to prevent any local brave enough to attempt to overtake The Walk Apart. There are, of course, many variants of this tactic as it can be used with any of the other manoeuvres.

Fig 7 The Umbrella

8. The Child

Here the weapon of choice is a small child. The tourists look to have created The Walk Apart poorly and have left a gap large enough for the local make the cut-through overtake. However, at the last minute this is blighted by the appearance of the small child who will invariably undertake their own Look, Edinburgh has a castle and stop sufficiently quickly to allow the tourist to plough into the child who is able to deploy the head to the groin.

Fig 8. The Child

9. The Suitcase

This tactic tends to be deployed close to Waverley Station and requires the tourists to find the busiest time of the day and drag an over-sized suitcase through the streets. It is always good for the tourist to deploy this in conjunction with The Crab. This is another manoeuvre which can result in physical injury to the local and is therefore highly popular with the tourists.

Fig 9 The Suitcase

10. The Street Performer

The next two tactics are generally deployed on High Street (or Royal Mile as the tourists prefer to incorrectly call it) and are aided and abetted by performers. The first is the large crowd that will gather around yet another person creating a tight-rope by two of said tourists and then walking across it whilst juggling sharpened knives or fire. The tourists gather in droves to ensure that there is no way for the local who has to walk along High Street to perhaps collect a parking permit from the council offices (no local would choose to walk along High Street in August).

Fig 10 The Street Performer

11. The Drama Student

Again a High Street tactic, this time involving a second year drama student who believes that the most innovative way to hand out flyers is to lie in the middle of the street or stand on a bollard, after all, nobody has ever thought of that before.. The tourist will interact with this display and cause an impossible blockage for the council office attending local to pass.

Fig 11 The Drama Student

I am sure that now the tactics of the tourists have been revealed that there will be some new ones that will appear. I urge any resident of Edinburgh who identifies either a way to combat the above tactics or identifies new ones to be deployed so that I can provide a public service to the locals of Edinburgh.




44 responses

19 08 2011
David Loudon

Love it.

Only one thing not catered for….The sudden stop! You are going at pace and the tourist just suddenly stops. Crash!

19 08 2011
Mike Legend

Numbers 4 and 6 deal with tourists who suddenly stop!

An honourable mention should go to the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue which is permanently smothered in tourists and forces locals into the road along George IV Bridge where we inevitably end up having to dodge oncoming taxis or buses. Pretty similar to 10 apart from that the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue is stupid – they can see the actual graves if the tour guides took them into the cemetary! Grrrrr!

8 08 2015
Peter Upton

I think this is covered in the “Look! Edinburgh has a castle!” tactic. No?

19 08 2011

Thanks for this – very useful.

Other weapons in the tourist arsenal include maps and huge cameras.

Also I think the ‘Huge Group of Spainish School Children’ deserve a special mention.

19 08 2011
Brian Healy (@Brian_Healy)

What about the tourist battalions from coach trips that take over Waterloo Place?

19 08 2011

Brilliant – but only half the story. What about tourists coming TOWARDS you?

19 08 2011
Rick Chalton

How about the flyer distributor? Standing offset several yards up and down the pavement – a static chicane if you will – machine gunning out their laminated wares. Best tactic – stuff hands deep into trouser pockets, thus being unable to participate.

And one related to ‘5 The Crab’ – the Smartphone meander, when a youth updating their facetwittertube (“EDinborough is like SOOOO cute!!!!1!) takes on the wandering style of a drunkard. Hampered by often wearing earphones.

19 08 2011

Ha! Very clever…. as a runner, I get the veer all the time. Walk in a straight f@cking line!! It’s not hard!!!

19 08 2011

I can think of a couple:

– The ‘dropping stuff’ (similar to Edinburgh Castle, but affecting a wider radius)
– The ‘ask for directions’ (honestly, you can see I’m in a hurry, why force me to purposefully mislead you?)
– The ‘being incredibly fat in a city composed of narrow wynds and closes’ (self-explanatory, and something that bizarrely doesn’t occur with fat locals)

19 08 2011
Alwyn Roberts (@stalwyn)

Solid list, missing out on ‘The Pram Army’ (two or more mothers pushing prams side by side causing similar issue as ‘The Suitcase’, note the pram more often than not is filled with tourist tat than a child) and ‘The Eighty-Eight’ (when the ‘The Walk Apart’ is performed by especially large tourists. Normally walking angrily away from Scott’s Monument. Bumbag optional)

19 08 2011
Iain Livingstone (@iamageek)

My addition would be “The Spanish Armada”. The huge groups of usually Spanish teenagers that group up, take up a whole pavement or corner, and don’t move when you ask them to.

But then, that’s what I brought an umbrella for.

19 08 2011
Tourist Blocking Tactics « Ehorns in Edinburgh

[…] friend Frank posted a link on his facebook wall of a hilarious blog post regarding dreaded ‘Tourist Blocking Tactics‘.  It illustrates 11 ‘tactics’ that tourists use to prevent ‘locals’ […]

19 08 2011

What about the formation standin in entance/exits…..or is that just a whole different area altogether?

20 08 2011

Missing the local in powerwheelchair /mobility scooter used as battering ram ,many a tourist ended up with severe bruising in the ankle area !

20 08 2011

Your “suitcase” diagram is flawed. The average August suitcase-dragger holds the handle right out to one side, leading to a formation that looks like a mini chicane. But they always come in twos, in a walk-apart configuration. That plus the suitcases means that two people can block even the widest pavement.

20 08 2011

This is funny and true,.but I just want to stand up for the tourists for a moment- and I am a born and bred edinburgher! Yes it’s enfuriating when you’re in a hurry, but they amble because they are in holiday mode and really want to admire our city just as we do abroad. I have an hour commute in the morning including a train to waverly and a bus past a famous attraction and I try to help any lost tourists I can on the way, I want them to love this city like I do. Also, on princes st out of festival seasons locals are just as likely to get in the way as they stop to go to shops, push buggies and have umbrellas. So, spare a thought for people who are lost in the maze that is the old town or the flyerers in the rain who (like I did once) might not even be in a show and are paid a pittence if anything, leave ten minutes early and help someone enjoy their holiday!

20 08 2011

I looooove this post so much. Thank you for taking the time to do it 🙂

20 08 2011

I have become expert on finding tourist-free quiet lanes and flights of steps by which to slip Puck-like about the city during August. I was thinking of doing a blog post on this (which would have been a nice companion article). But I’m too selfish. I’m keeping them to myself.

5 08 2015
Simon Morris

Like a cycle friendly map of routes through the city, but instead tourist free routes through the city, I like this idea. Leith Walk to Southside. Calton Road, cut through station to Market St, Scotsman steps, Blair Street, Guthrie St, Chambers St, W College St, Potterow! Avoid Waterloo Place and The Bridges!

20 08 2011
the ugly american

i’m a tourist, and love your city…I didn’t realize the locals were so mean-spirited. so sad now. but it is funny.

22 08 2011
Dave Myers

Not at all, but we do have a sense of humour about things.

20 08 2011

Don’t forget the groups who all huddle around 1 tiny map in the middle of the pavement. Related to the Greyfriars Bobby poster: I once encountered a group of Chinese students who felt it necessary to all pose in front of him, like a school photo, and unfurl a banner to go in the photo as well! Am I the only one who delights in walking in front of their photos?

20 08 2011

“The Diamond, castled”: Just as the pavement’s finally got wide enough to pass a group of tourists in diamond formation, the leader stops and turns to proclaim “look, Edinburgh has a castle!”. All others halt abruptly and spread across the full width of the pavement, leaving the local to trip over their own feet in a bid to avoid crashing into them.

Tourists: we do love ’em, really, but they can be infuriating!

20 08 2011

This is just the best, so true. I’m moving away after many happy years here but this is something I won’t miss for sure!

21 08 2011

There’s the whole chapter on tourists with cameras.

The one that nips my heid is when the photographer stands on the building side of the pavement while taking a shot across the other side of the road. All the fellow tourists stop while the picture is taken causing a huge jam!

Why don’t they stand on the road side of the pavement? Even better cross the road and take your pictures of the castle then there won’t be the inevitable delay while a dozen busses pass :-@

21 08 2011

I’d add the ELBOWS of DOOM: tourists (or locals) who force you off the pavement and into the path of a bus with a sudden and deft swing of their ample arms…
I also second the comment about the ankle ramraiders with pushchairs or buggies.
@the ugly american: it’s not mean spirited, it’s just the natives having a bit of fun amongst themselves!

22 08 2011
Dave Myers

One thing that is missing is what I’d call ‘The Latin Wall’. This occurs mainly on Princes Street and involves groups of four or more Spanish or Italian people taking up the entire width of the pavement. And it normally happens when walking in the opposite direction to the local.

22 08 2011
David Ritchie

The Italian: a manoeuvre generally performed at narrow street corners by a crowd of Italian teenagers forcing locals onto the street at the risk of life and limb. A variation on this is often preformed in the aisles of the Nicholson Street Tescos.

24 08 2011

I have a tactic against this that I employ regularly. It is called the Personal Space Invader. Basically, people don’t like strangers being close to them, and if they are in a foreign environment, then they are less likely to challenge said stranger. So the idea is to become exceedingly close to the unwanted traffic, and then it will decide to move out of the way to avoid conflict/uncomfortable feelings. Works well on public transport too.

24 08 2011

The key for #10 is missing the performer

24 08 2011
Kate Harris

@uglyamerican – We like visitors as long as they don’t dawdle along busy pavements! I have no problem giving directions as long as I’m not in a hurry. I do it when I’m on holiday so it’s only fair.

Last night I had to run down Cowgate to get to a show – I was running 5 minutes late. So many interesting manoeveures and had to keep running along the road, risking my life in the process. The meandering is a problem. I’m just trying to get from A to B, they’re trying to ‘soak up the atmosphere’ – chaos ensues.

27 08 2011

It’s the taking up of entire pavements I can’t stand! Then they get annoyed when you shout “excuse me” because they didn’t hear you the first time. I hit a few with my umbrella the other day. Totally accidental… Often I think of what would happen if these people drove like they walked. Crashes everywhere! Perhaps there are lessons to be had in the Highway Code that are translatable for pavement walking.

29 08 2011

And how many of those tactics do you use while being abroad?
It’s all fine to make fun of visitors (yes the post it’s funny) but the fact is that we all do this while visiting other countries. So before anyone start moaning (and I am guilty of that too) I would much rather be accused of blocking the pavement than piss on it or sleep on it drunk. Just saying.

5 03 2012
edinburgh tour

Its great to see a website with an article about Edinburgh tours. I’m fortunate enough to have been on a good many of these (which is pretty rare as I’m actually a native of the capital!). Some tours are absolutely wonderful and I’d certainly recommend them as being worthwhile ones to visit. Like most things you get what you pay for so I’d advise on going on one of the paid tours. These are well written and take you to some really fascinating parts of Edinburgh. Personally I’d go and look around the Mercat Cross for the better tours. I’ve no links to these companies other than I’ve been on their tours and they are very well done.

26 08 2012
Sunday Smiles: From the edges of the solar system to Eden Park | Sharky Oven Gloves

[…] during August thanks to the Festival and the Fringe.  Whilst I’m not there this year, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of Edinburgh’s tourist tactics amused me.  The observations are equally valid for anywhere […]

1 10 2012

In defence of wheelchair users, it’s justifiable revenge for all the people who stop us from getting anywhere at all. If you think it’s hard to wade through the tourists when you’re walking, try being in a wheelchair, which is not only wider but also heavily affected by hills, cobbles and kerbs, and leaves you vulnerable to elbows at the height of your head! Mind you, I am a good person and have never actually driven my wheelchair into anyone. It gets terribly tempting, though…

Great post, gave me a good giggle.

3 10 2012
Ben Zyl

I arry one of those plastic trumpets you get at the rugby, polyester diaphragm and quite loud – can clear a gap in quite a thick crowd with a delicious shiver of fear at the same time, I also heard that a bicycle bell can work well due to the innate tendency to clear a bike sized gap at bike sized speed.

10 08 2015

I’ve done the bicycle bell and it totally works! You don’t even need a bike for it to work 😉

20 08 2014

Absolutely brilliant – number 4 being my personal favorite. I get a tourist rage, especially during the festival. Not sure why as I have lived in two big tourist draws before, must be a combination of narrow streets and large groups. On the upside, it’s a lesson and I try not to do the same when I’m on holidays.

3 08 2015

Also, the PHOTOBOMB. I get this one mostly at Greyfriar’s Bobby. One tourist stands next to the statue, one at the very edge of the pavement, creating a large through zone which means you can pass at risk of being in a random tourists photo, or wait the impossibly long time it seems to take them to press the shutter button. I’m sure I have ended up in a number of holiday snaps.

4 08 2015

The cycle lane photographer tourist is one who branches out into innovative forms of cycling disruption. They come in pairs. One stands on the pavement – usually in front of Greyfriar’s Bobby or the Elephant House while the other walks backwards into the red marked “photographer’s zone” in order to take the photo forcing the cyclist to apologise to the bus driver whose front window he has just splatted onto in an attempt to avoid the tourist.

10 08 2015

A few years ago, I had a string of engagements that, thanks to tram works, involved walking across the city centre in fringe season, in Full Highland dress, carrying a sword. The urge to use it to clear a path was hard to resist, especially after being asked to stop for a photo the Nth time! You’d probably even get away with it- the High Court is on the Royal mile, meaning any jurors have to brave tourist central to get to the trial, where the defence is temporay insanity on the basis of too many tourists in the way…

24 08 2015

I think that old favourite, the giant rucksack, deserves a mention. Obviously works better in confined spaces like trams and busses, but a well timed turn on a pavement will often suffice to knock a local into the road and into the path of a bus.

9 08 2016

You forgot the ‘Waiting for the bus’, where tourists take all the space available on the kerb, see the bus coming from miles away, but you almost have to shove them to pass, even when they see you coming!

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