Saturday, November 6, 2010

Should Sidewalks and Bike Paths Have a Designated Slowpoke Lane?

Bicyclists Slow sign photoI am a big proponent of bicycle commuting and it is nice to see a lot of new - and welcome - company on the bike lanes. But then I think about my own morning commute. In Florida, it's almost always the ideal riding conditions - warm and dry weather. I have a super-simple 2.3 mile commute, nearly all on bike lanes. But being out in commuting prime time of 8:00 am and 6pm, means several slower cyclists come in contact with speedier folks like me. Sometimes slower commuters 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.
Separated Bike and Ped Lanes.jpgThe 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 and riders (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, it might be easier if you rode/walked on the right". 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, even electric scooter users and wheelchair drivers. 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? Let me know what you think/prefer.

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