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What is a Moving Walkway?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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A moving walkway is a large conveyor belt upon which people are propelled forward, and sometimes upward. The moving walkway is frequently seen in airports, lessening the distance one must walk to get from one area of a large airport to another. Similar to the moving walkway is the escalator, which saves climbing stairs. A moving walkway differs from the escalator because even when it ascends it does not feature the staircase style of the escalator.

Moving walkways usually are one of two types. To many the most familiar is the rubbery conveyor belt type that may feel a little bouncy as one stands or walks on it. Another type of moving walkway, called the Pallet Type, features metal plates that blend together. Most variants of the moving walkway have handrails, which can improve safety, particularly if the walkway comes to a complete stop.

Since the 1980s, efforts in design of the moving walkway have been toward increasing its speed. The moving walking installed at the Montparnasse- Bienvenue Metro Station in Paris in 2002, was first meant to travel at 7.46 mph (12 kph). Problems occurred with too many people falling over due to this quick speed. The speed was reset to 5.59 mph (9kph) and has encountered far fewer problems.

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Getting onto a high speed moving walkway is a bit of a challenge. Ideally, people are supposed to stand on rollers in front of the moving walkway that speed them up so that they catch up with the speed of the moving walkway. If they attempt to walk on the rollers, chance of falling is very good. The moving walkway also decelerates at drop off points so that people can get off of it without falling. This too takes a little dexterity and concentration.

Riding on a moving walkway for the first time can feel a little strange. Many people walk rather than simply ride on the conveyor belt or metal plates, just as many people climb escalator stairs. The stable moving walkway provides little feeling that you are actually moving, and some people may walk since they’re anxious to get to their next destination.

There are a few inclined moving walkway styles that have been installed in grocery stores of more than one level. This allows for customers with shopping carts to easily go from one level to another, while still remaining visible to store employees, not an option with elevators. Moving walkways are also more friendly to those in wheelchairs, since they are usually thought easier to negotiate than getting in and out of small elevators. Escalators with stairs are of course impossible to use by those who are wheelchair bound or for small kids in strollers.

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