Moving walkways slower than walking, say scientists

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Using moving sidewalks at airports is actually slower than walking unaided, say researchers.

The findings, published in New Scientist, back up research by Dr Seth Young of Ohio State University who noticed people at San Francisco and Cleveland airports walking much more slowly on electric walkways.

"Moving walkways are the only form of transportation that actually slow people down," says Young. He adds that even when you have the walkway to yourself, the time gained is only ten seconds from a 100 yard electric walkway.

Young says the eye tells the brain you are going faster than normal and automatically slows you down to a more comfortable speed, only slightly faster than it would have been on solid ground. The time gained even without any congestion is minimal and when you add extra people you would be better off walking unaided

And using travelators at airports at busy times can actually slow you down because people reduce their walking pace on the human conveyor belts and cause blockages. While people on travelators can move marginally faster than on normal ground, other travelers will often block the way, making it slower than walking unaided.

Just about the only benefit is giving weary travellers a chance to put their bags down for a few moments, add the scientists.