Should Sidewalks and Bike Paths Have a Designated Slowpoke Lane?


Further separating bike and ped lanes to fast and slow sides might be one way to reduce conflicts. Photo courtesy Binary Ape via flickr and Creative Commons license.

I'm a big proponent of bicycle commuting. When an acquaintance at a meeting this morning remarked how nice it is that as a 35-year dedicated cyclist she's noticing a lot of new - and welcome - company on the bike lanes, I just nodded. But later on, I thought about my own morning commute. It should have been ideal - unseasonably warm and dry fall weather and a super-simple 2.3 mile commute, nearly all on bike lanes. But being out in commuting prime time of 8:00 a.m. (which I normally don't need to do) meant several not-so-happy speedier cyclists made clear that slowpokes like me are an irritation to faster walking and biking commuters. The problem is acute enough, reports the WSJ, for a group of London businesspeople to plan to create a slowpoke shopping lane on Oxford Street sidewalks.
Photo credit bensonkua via flickr and Creative Commons license.

The New West End Company, a group of merchants, won't likely paint the lines on the street - though knowing the unpredictable behavior of most pedestrians (myself included) this might be a good idea. Instead, according to the WSJ, the group of business advocates of New West End Company will use employees people wearing special red caps to help direct walkers to walk in a "shoppers lane" close to store fronts, while other more determined and faster pedestrians keep to the left.

"I see no problem in saying, 'Excuse me, madam, it might be easier if you walked on the right," said Jeffrey Adams, who already works as an information guide for New West End, in the WSJ story.

Not everyone thinks segregating pedestrians is a good idea. The WSJ story concentrates on the potential conflict on sidewalks between slow and fast walkers, thought there's a similar conflict between fast and slow cyclists, and a definite strain between faster cyclists and slower pedestrians when their paths cross.

So how about slowpoke lanes? While the idea may seem overly prescriptive, we live in an era where the need for civility between the different members of the travelling public - the peds, cyclists, drivers, yes even electric scooter users and wheelchair drivers - is high. Yet agreed-upon etiquette rules (and peer pressure reinforcement of these rules) are practically non-existent.

For slow traffic to keep to the right is long-standing idea for vehicular traffic, and it is an assumed idea for pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Should we reinforce the idea with extra painted lines or designated slowpoke lanes? Give us your ideas in comments.

Read more about bike and pedestrian paths at TreeHugger:
Outraged Cyclists Re-Paint Bike Lane, Guerilla Style
You Shall Have Bike Lanes Wherever You Go
Brazilian Activists Paint Guerilla Pedestrian Lanes

Tags: Biking | Transportation

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