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The BBC's Stephen Cviic
"Having a fast lane for shoppers in Oxford Street received a mixed reaction"
 real 28k

Oxford Street Pedestrian, Richard Oakley
"The fast lane is for people who want to move quickly about London"
 real 28k

Monday, 4 December, 2000, 11:52 GMT
Pedestrians: Get in lane
Oxford Street: Home to 200 million shoppers a year
Oxford Street: Home to 200 million shoppers a year
Window shoppers are clogging up London's Oxford Street, making life difficult for those who want to walk at pace. Now plans are afoot to try and introduce a pedestrian fast lane.

It's enough to put you off going outside the front door forever.

With the rail network in crisis and record congestion levels on the roads, many Christmas shoppers will turn to their trusty feet to get around.

Fastlane campaign banner
Campaigners want to rally support for their idea
But now even walking can be a dangerous pastime. Pedestrians, fed up with packed pavements and slow strollers, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the time it takes to get from A to B.

Now, campaigners are pressing for the sort of traffic management techniques you'd expect to find on a motorway.

They are demanding a pavement fastlane to run along both sides of Oxford Street in London, one of Britain's busiest shopping streets.

It sounds like a joke, admits campaign spokesman Andy Kourpas, but he insists stress levels are rising among shoppers and workers in the area as they struggle against the tide of people.

Divide and rule

If the campaign is successful, he says, high streets up and down the country could see their pavements spliced in two, with one lane for brisk walkers and the other for dawdlers.

But how real is the threat of so-called pavement rage?

Mr Kourpas, who works for a public relations company located off Oxford Street, says 500 pedestrians have been questioned and many have expressed frustration at the sluggish pace of pedestrians.

Speed camera
Walk too slow, and you might get a ticket
It should take just 19 minutes to walk the 1.25-mile length of Oxford Street, at an average speed of four miles per hour, he says.

However, in "quiet times" it takes more than 28 minutes; at rush hour and lunchtime that rises to 38 minutes; and when Christmas shoppers are out in force it takes almost an hour.

Tourists stopping to look at maps, mobile phone users pausing for a chat and smokers slowing down to light up are all part of the problem, says Mr Kourpas.

In America, "sidewalk rage" has already hit the headlines.

Matter of life or death

In Miami in October, two men ended up in a fistfight after they apparently grazed shoulders while walking past each other. One of the men then allegedly pulled a gun and fired it into the other's car.

So far Britons have been more level headed. No one has been attacked in a pedestrian rage incident, says Mr Kourpas, "but that's just a matter of time".

Best stick to the side streets
The Fast Lane Campaign says its solution would reduce stress levels and make Oxford Street a nicer place to be, for shoppers and everyone else. It would also be good for business by drawing in more shoppers.

Lanes would run on both pavements, one going east to west and the other west to east. They would be marked by a different coloured paving stone and monitored by marshals whose job would be to see no one fell below the 3mph speed limit.

To keep pedestrians moving, there would be a strict ban on using mobile phones, pushchairs, wheelchairs, cameras and personal stereos. Pets would also be barred (except guide dogs), as would eating, map reading, and smoking.

The campaign is being led by Tugboat, an advertising agency just off Oxford Street. But so far it has failed to win the support of any of the street's big name retailers such as Selfridges, Marks and Spencer and John Lewis.

Westminster Council has described the plan as "very unusual" but said it would consider a planning application.

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