We ped heads got a little comeuppance this week.

A new study determined that it’s more efficient on the whole if no one walks up the escalator, but instead everyone stands on both sides, forgoing the tradition of the left side “walk lane.” The result: “travel times” decline on average for more people

Me and my ped pals were howling in protest about the findings of this provocative experiment conducted at the crowded Holborn tube station, one of London’s busiest, with more than 56 million passengers a year. The study sussed out the data showing that escalators operate more efficiently if everyone stands.

It may sound counterintuitive, but researchers said it is more efficient if nobody walks on the escalator.

When 40 percent of the people walked, the average time for standers was 138 seconds and 46 seconds for walkers, according to their calculations. When everyone stood, the average time fell to 59 seconds. For walkers, that meant losing 13 seconds but for standers, it was a 79-second improvement.

Researchers also found the length of the line to reach and step onto an escalator dropped to 24 people from 73.

Why do the outcomes improve if everyone stands?

“Those who stand on the right-hand side tend to use every second step, whilst those who walk are likely to take three steps per person, which wastes space,” the consultants, Shivam Desai and Lukas Dobrovsky, wrote.

I say we pedestrian advocates got our comeuppance because the escalator finding reminds me of ped & transit advocates (and SDOT engineers) who often take smug comfort in data of their own which shows that scaling down roads from four car lanes to three actually creates more efficient travel times for everybody by adding ped and transit options, speeding up travel times for buses, and barely increasing travel times for cars. (See pages 16-18 in this report on the Rainier Ave. road redesign.)

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Of course, in addition to making streets more ped friendly, road redesigns can also unabashedly be all about about slowing down cars…from breaking the speed limitAnd that works too.

Regardless, as we pedestrian proponents cheer efficiencies in our excellent war on cars, we can’t simultaneously scoff at evidence that shows there are better ways to manage pedestrian commuters en masse as well.

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