Someone who’s been stuck one too many times behind a wide row of casually ambling out-of-towners decided to make a statement on a stretch of sidewalk at Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street yesterday, painting separate walking lanes for tourists and New Yorkers (which have since been scrubbed from existence). But is there more to this protest against slow pedestrians than a comical act of defiance? Would this actually be good policy?
Sure, why not? Maybe you don’t get out on the highway much, but if you do, surely you know that the rule of the road, which is often legally codified, is for slow drivers to keep to the right, fast drivers to go nuts in the left, and moderate drivers to drive, appropriately, in the middle. The system keeps traffic flowing efficiently, and allows everyone to travel at the speed they desire. So if having different lanes for different speeds is a good idea on the highway, why not apply it to city walking?
Obviously, the lanes wouldn’t be designated for “tourists and “New Yorkers.” Some tourists walk briskly and some New Yorkers walk slowly, and it makes no sense for them to be relegated to a lane that doesn’t match their speed preference. Sometimes, even regularly fast-paced New Yorkers will decide to walk slowly, like when they have a lot of time to kill, when they’re trying not to sweat before a date or interview, when they’re high, or when they’re stunned after seeing The Sixth Sense for the first time. Plus, the only way to enforce the separation of tourists and New Yorkers would be to inspect I.D.’s, and then we’re basically Arizona at that point.
So the lanes would simply be “fast” and “slow.” As on the highway, you could move in and out of lanes to get around someone else, but if you’re walking straight ahead, you would do so in the lane that matched your speed. Of course, people could just easily ignore the lanes entirely. But if even some people adhered to them, it would make foot travel a little more efficient, more enjoyable, and you wouldn’t feel the urge to punch a slow walker in the back of the head as often.