Lonely Planet Writer

Move it - London introduces a fast-walking lane AND phones are outlawed

A fast-walking lane has been installed by Waterloo station, on London’s South Bank, reports Londonist. The 50-metre-long lane may only be used by pedestrians going over three mph, and phone use is outlawed.

London's South Bank has introduced a fast-walking lane.
London’s South Bank has introduced a fast-walking lane. Image by Garry Knight / CC BY-SA 2.0

The lane isn’t a long-term solution to London’s pavement congestion – it’s open today and tomorrow Friday 23 September but stops running after that. The ‘Direct Lane’ is on Sutton Walk, a pedestrianised stretch heading towards the river from Waterloo, which is one of London’s busiest railway stations.

It’s been organised by insurance provider Direct Line as a publicity stunt. But the idea of fast lanes for walkers eager to dodge phone-focused zombies is a popular one. Following research that suggested almost half of British people found slow walkers the most annoying aspect of going shopping, the UK’s first ever pedestrian lane was trialled in a busy shopping street in Liverpool in 2015. A journalist for the Liverpool Echo tried the lanes out at the time. “Nobody else seemed to be paying them a blind bit of notice,” said Paddy Shennan. “People don’t tend to look down at their feet when they’re walking through town.”

Other cities around the world have tried to separate different groups of pedestrians – Antwerp in Belgium, Chongqing in China and Washington DC in the USA have all experimented with lanes specifically for people who are walking and texting. Many of the trials were publicity stunts and most have been temporary, but calls for permanent fast-walking lanes continue – with London’s Oxford Street regularly named as a possible site.