Why you should care
Because being stuck behind a slow person is just as bad as being stuck behind a slow driver.
You’re walking down the street, sunglasses on, earbuds in, cruising along and minding your own business, and then … you encounter them. The slow people. “Um, excuse me. Sorry, excuse me, can I just … squeeze through.…”
The pack of humans hogging the entire sidewalk. The distracted texters swerving like they’re drunk. Or three people walking arm in arm, leaving absolutely zero passing room. It’s just one of those things that long-limbed folk, New Yorkers and anyone with somewhere to go can’t stand. That’s why we at OZY propose that sidewalks should have two lanes — a slow lane and a fast lane. Airports have them. Highways have them. Even escalators have standing and walking etiquette. Slow humans, move right. It’s the way of the world.
I’m not the only one who likes this idea. Last year, the city of Chongqing, in southwest China, decided to set up a special lane for the distracted — folks who text, snap selfies or surf Weibo — and another for those able to keep their phones in their pockets. In 2010, an improv group called Improv Everywhere tried it out in New York. They painted two “lanes” on a Fifth Avenue sidewalk — one for tourists (ahem, we’re looking at you, meanderers) and the other for locals. What was meant as a real-life comedy sketch received a ton of attention, with some New Yorkers even handing out high-fives. Charlie Todd, the founder of Improv Everywhere, takes the idea a step further, telling OZY, “You’d really need four lanes to account for people walking in both directions.” Now there’s an idea we can get behind.
But not everyone thinks slow walking is such a scourge. Some people think you should relax and enjoy the view; they support ambling, moseying, dawdling and the like. Neil Gaffney, a spokesman for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, points out that, practically speaking, there are “very few cities in the U.S. where there is such high volume that would justify [separate pedestrian lanes].” And James Gallagher with Safe Routes to School doesn’t exactly think a sidewalk passing lane should be a safety priority. According to a 2014 report by the Department of Transportation, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in 2012. Another 76,000 pedestrians were injured.
To which we say, OK, fine. Maybe we should put more resources toward building more and safer sidewalks, but that doesn’t mean two-lane sidewalks can’t be part of the solution. And nota bene: Distracted walking accounted for some 1,500 pedestrian injuries in 2010, according to researchers at the Ohio State University, double the number in 2005.
So the next time you get stuck behind a massive tour group or a gaggle of oblivious preteens taking up the whole sidewalk, think about how wonderful a passing lane would be. And if you notice someone trying to sneak around you, please take pity on them and move to the right. They’re just trying to continue on their way.
Have you ever wanted to punch a slow-moving person in the back of the head? Let us know.