Pedestrian traffic. As a commuter who uses a combination of his legs and public transportation to get to and from work each day, I have become increasingly concerned with the efficient flow of people. And through countless hours of observation and hundreds of missed trains, I’ve discovered the principal culprit in the formation of pedestrian bottle necks. The grotesquely obese (the "GO").
Let's face it, obesity is the new normal for roughly half the population. These people of "average" girth naturally take up more space than the slimmer minority. But that accounts for a small fraction of my increasing commuting times. Morbidly obese folks take up even more space than their obese brothers and sisters, but again, my data indicates that the obese and morbidly obese, in the aggregate, can account for only a 17% increase in my average daily commuting time.
In late August, while going over the raw data yet again, I noticed something rather startling. Approximately 94% of the time I missed a train despite allocating a sufficient time to arrive at the station, a GO was strategically positioned at a bottle neck point en route to the station.
Notice the GO's stride in the photo above. The beginning posture involves leaning back to balance as against the large mass up front (imagine lifting and carrying a refrigerator and you get the idea). While walking, the arms, then, initiate their swinging already swept back from this reclining position, hanging down from just behind the buttocks. But because of the large love-handles protruding on either side of the trunk, the arms are forced outward, and then around the large central mass (as opposed to the straight forward back swing of the slim). This arc-like swinging motion, forcing the arms out like flapping wings, results in the GO taking up enormous swaths of available space, making it virtually impossible to circumnavigate around. Couple this with the fact that their rate of speed is often a small fraction of that of non-GO's, and a pattern of traffic-making becomes readily apparent. As if this weren't enough, GO's tend to position themselves strategically so as to maximize the available space consumed by their presence.
Now that we've identified the source of the problem, let's delve into some possible solutions to this growing and sizable problem. Forcing GO's off of sidewalks and other otherwise accessible by-ways would certainly help, while being simultaneously discriminatory and cruel. A curfew forbidding them access during peak rush hours would be less restrictive, but also arguably unfair.
Can anything, then, be done?
One possible solution would be to train GO's to walk more briskly and equal the average pace of more able-bodied commuters. The implementation of such a training regimen would be daunting, and the results uncertain at best. Liability insurance costs for protecting from lawsuits arsing from injury and death would be, shall we say, rather large. And even if successful, the speedy GO's would still take up more space on sidewalks, and the faster (i.e. average) walkers would still lack the ability to get past.
A better way, as borne out by my computer modeling, would be to require all people with 55 inch or larger waists to walk on the North or West side of the street, leaving the opposite side entirely free of GO's. Curbs could be color-coded so to assist in the identification of appropriate sidewalk usage.
But alas, even this remedy is not without its problems. Store owners on either side of the street have already expressed their concerns. Merchants on the GO side of the street fear that those of lesser girth may shy away from braving the molasses-like flow of pedestrian traffic necessary to make it into their establishments. Moreover, the GO's themselves may serve to shield from view the stores whose frontage they occupy. The opposite side of the street fares no better, as window-shopping GO's would easily defeat any benefits derived from the segregation in the first place if they are permitted to traverse the road.
So I leave it up to you, dear reader, to propose a more workable resolution to this immense problem.