When it comes to hitching a ride, it doesn’t get easier than moving walkways. Around for over 130 years, they have evolved from simple conveyor belts to sophisticated systems that move people along horizontal and inclined planes.Now the crowd regulator of choice, moving walkways often partner with escalators to manage the day-to-day flow of vast quantities of people in public areas such as airports, tourist attractions and exhibition centers.
Backtrack to the 19th Century – Big Ideas Become Reality
America lives up to its Land of Dreams reputation with New Jersey inventor and wine merchant, Albert Speer, patenting his ‘endless travelling sidewalk’ in 1871. Though never built, in the 1890 issue of Scientific America, his system was explained thus…
“These belts were to be made up of a series of small platform railway cars strung together. The first line of belts was to run at a slow velocity, say 3 miles per hour, and upon this slow belt of moving pavement, passengers were expected to step without difficulty. The next adjoining belt was intended to have a velocity of 6 miles per hour, but its speed, in reference to the first belt, would be only 3 miles per hour. Each separate line of belt was thus to have a different speed from the adjacent one; and thus the passenger might, by stepping from one platform to another, increase or diminish his rate of transit at will. Seats were to be placed at convenient points on the travelling platforms.”
France Hops On
In 1880, engineer Monsieur Dalifol patented his ‘New systems of locomotion by moving floors with traction by fixed motors’, but his untimely demise stopped the project. Likewise, in 1889, architect and urban planner Eugène Hénard submitted plans for a moving platform system for the 1889 Paris Fair, but plans fell through.
World’s First Moving Walkway
In 1893, America debuted the world’s first moving walkway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. 1,310-metre brainchild of architect, Joseph L. Silsbee and engineer, Max E. Schmidt, the device comprised a multiple speed system using two contiguous platforms operating at three and six mph, with the slow platform being used solely for access to the faster one.
A Wooden Serpent with Its Tail in Its Mouth
Seven years later, this design-duo showcased their Trottoir Roulant (moving pavement) at the Paris Exposition Universelle – a three-kilometre loop with articulated wooden segments ‘gliding around like a wooden serpent with its tail in its mouth’, according to one reporter. Nearly seven million visitors hopped on, with a Madame Benost giving birth in transit to an eponymously christened child, Trottoir Roulant Benost.
Retrofittable Moving Walkways
As moving walkways proliferated throughout the world, in 1990 John Loder ‘retro-fittable moving walkways’ made installation easier in existing buildings.
First Commercial Speedwalk
Ideas for high-speed walkways abounded but they all came to nothing, that is until the 1954 arrival of the world’s first speedwalk at the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad’s Erie station, Jersey City – courtesy of the Goodyear and Stephenson-Adamson companies.
Airport Niche Market
The first moving walkway in an airport was installed in the Dallas Love Field Terminal in 1958 – linking the main terminal with the first gates in each of the three concourses. Despite some user issues, other airports jumped on-board, including American Airlines with their ‘Astroways’, in 1960.
UK Hops On
London’s Waterloo and City line hosted the UK’s first moving walkway in 1960 – to resolve the intolerable conditions leading passengers on foot to the station. Work began in 1957, with the travelator described as ‘an American device which was basically a step-less escalator on an easy incline’.
Moving Walkways Today
Once the stuff of science fiction moving walkways are now science fact, in use in highly demanding public areas around the world.
Nowadays, high speed, high capacity moving walkways using maglev technology, accelerate from walking to 7.5 mph top speed. And urban visionaries, working towards car-free cities, envisage moving walkways carrying 7,000 passengers apiece per hour more energy efficiently than buses. Also known as… moving sidewalks, autowalks and travelators.They can be easily installed in places with long horizontal areas and they can even be used in outdoors (with adequate waterproofing protection). Moving walkways are often installed in supermarkets, airports and train stations.
Like their lift buddies, we here at Volkslift East Africa love all the moving walkways we install and service, so want to leave you with our top three fun facts:
- One of the earliest introduction of moving walkways was by the Ancient Egyptians in building the Great Pyramids of Giza, where stone cubes were carried on tree trunks and rolled towards the build site using a long belt pulled by workers.
- Guinness World Records says the longest single moving walkway in a city is just over 204 metres in length and carries pedestrians underneath the parks and gardens of The Domain area in Sydney, Australia – taking just over 5 minutes to complete one length.
- By 2021, the maintenance and modernisation budget that will be spent on elevators and moving stairways will be $125 billion.
We hope you liked the rise and history of the moving walkway, if you’re keen to know more why not take a look at our moving walkway product page? And see the complete range of products and services the Volkslift East Africa company provide.
Elevators are among the safest modes of transportation, with over 325 million daily riders on some 700,000 elevators in the U.S. Yet incidents involving elevators kill more than 25 people and seriously injure another 10,000 each year, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Although television and movies often depict dangerous elevator failures, reality is quite different. Elevators are supported by multiple steel cables, and each cable alone can support a fully loaded car. So a plummeting elevator car full of screaming riders is more Hollywood fiction than fact.
In early 2020, the ASME A17.1-2019 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators received a number of revisions. Important changes include: Updates to door requirements in private residence elevators and occupant evacuation elevators. Seismic requirements for elevators and escalators were clarified. Updates were made to emergency communication requirements for an elevator to ensure communication with trapped passengers, including those who are hearing impaired. And requirements were modified for increased door protection on passenger elevators.
Nevertheless, there are several steps and best practices repair workers and riders can follow to help ensure their safety when using or working on an elevator. Check the elevator safety tips and resources below for details.
Elevator Safety Tips for Workers, Employers and Building Owners
Elevator and construction workers are at highest risk for elevator-related injuries. Almost half of elevator-related deaths occur to people working on or near elevators – including those installing, repairing and maintaining elevators or working in or near elevator shafts. The most common incidents are falls into the shaft, workers caught between moving parts or platforms and workers struck by elevator cars or counterweights.
To help prevent elevator-related deaths and injuries, employers and workers should take these steps:
- Ensure workplace protective practices and training are adequate.
- De-energize and lock-out electrical circuits and mechanical equipment when elevators are out of service or under repair
- Establish a permit-required confined-space program for elevator shafts
- Provide adequate fall protection during work in or near elevator shafts
- Develop an adequate inspection and maintenance program
- Use only qualified repair companies or workers for elevator repair and maintenance
- Post appropriate elevator safety signs for emergency operation, freight elevators, counterweights, elevator shafts, inspection tags, etc.
Elevator Safety Tips for Riders
When waiting for elevators:
- Look and listen for the signal announcing your car’s arrival
- Stand clear of the elevator doors and stand aside for exiting passengers
- If the arriving car is full, wait for the next car
- Don’t attempt to maneuver in or stop closing doors, wait for the next car
- In the event of a fire or other situation that could lead to a disruption in electrical services, take the stairs
When boarding elevators:
- Allow passengers exiting the elevator to clear before boarding
- Watch your step – the elevator car may not be perfectly level with the floor
- Stand clear of the doors – keep clothes and carry-ons away from the opening
- Push and hold the DOOR OPEN button if doors need to be held open, or ask someone to push the button for you
- Never try to stop a closing door, wait for the next car
When riding elevators:
- Hold the handrail, if available
- Stand next to the elevator wall, if available
- Pay attention to the floor indications and announcements when provided
- If the doors do not open when the elevator stops, push the DOOR OPEN button
- Stay calm if you find yourself stuck in an elevator. Use the elevator’s alarm button or emergency contact button to get help. Elevator cars are designed to be “safe rooms”, and the safest place is inside the car.
When exiting elevators:
- Exit immediately at your floor. Do not wait for others behind you
- Do not push the people in front of you when exiting
- Watch your step – the elevator car may not be perfectly level with the floor
In case of an elevator emergency:
- If the elevator stops between floors, don’t panic – there is plenty of air in the elevator
- Reassure and calm anyone who is panicked about being stuck in the elevator
- Use the ALARM or HELP button, the telephone or the intercom to call for assistance. Follow the posted instructions for their use.
- Don’t attempt to pry open the doors
- Never climb out of a stalled elevator. Wait for qualified help to arrive
- Emergency lighting will come on in the event of a power failure
Elevator Safety Resources:
- Learn why elevators are safer than you thought at ScienceABC
- ASME A17 Elevator Safety Standards
- OSHA standards for elevators and escalators
- Visit the National Elevator Industry site.
- Download 9 elevator industry best practices from NEII (pdf).
- Browse elevator safety signs at ComplianceSigns.com.
- Check these Escalator Safety Tips, too!
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