Sidewalk Derby

It was back in 1979, I think, that someone published an article in Science about how fast people walk in downtown districts in different cities. I remember being jealous of the author for two reasons. First he had successfully talked some foundation out of several thousand dollars to fly around the world with a stopwatch. He would time pedestrians progress from corner to corner all the while sitting in a cafe. Second, he had managed to pass 100% Grade A bullshit off as solid research to a highly respected journal. So much for peer review! In case you are curious, Prague beat out New York, Florence and Singapore for the fastest walkers. The slowest were in Paris, of course. Prague in 1978, when he visited with his stopwatch, was a very sad place. No wonder people didn’t want to linger on the streets very long.
I remembered this contribution to the treasury of human knowledge today while walking the two blocks from Michigan Avenue to State Street along Jackson Boulevard at the noon hour. The trigger was a couple who were walking in front of me. I guess I stride energetically, even when not in hurry. This couple, however, walked as if they were heading toward their doom. Without pausing, they covered the distance of 20 yards in about a minute. That’s the equivalent of a single stride every three seconds, or three times slower than everyone else. The sidewalks of Chicago are crowded at noon as people go about the lunch business. There was no space to move around them. Quite a crowd was forming behind me, all jockeying for a passing lane. The couple trudged along unmoved by the plight of the citizens in their wake. Eventually we all reached the corner of Wabash, where the hordes swept around the laconic pair, who seemed quite happy to be strolling along on a beautiful summer day.
In Roller Derby, there are four Blockers trying to prevent the passing of a single Jammer from the opposing team. On the sidewalks of our cities, the ratio is reversed.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.