People Really, Really Don’t Like Taking the Stairs


People will do a lot to avoid having to take the stairs. They’ll wait for an elevator, even if it’s going to take longer. Or they’ll walk far out of their way just to get to an escalator. 

In a new study, an urban planner and a psychologist observed almost 34,000 pedestrians using 13 stairways and 12 pairs of escalators in shopping centers in Montreal, and found that people would take the escalator unless the stairs were much more convenient. Doubling the distance between the stairs and the nearest escalator increases the likelihood that someone will climb by 95 percent, according to their statistical analysis. 

Granted, shoppers don't always have the same habits as, say, someone dashing to work. But people's aversion to stairs is pretty well documented. City leaders from New York to Turkey have called for residents to skip the elevator for better health. A small Canadian study found that climbing stairs is twice as difficult on the body as walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. A 2008 study found European men (but not women) who lived on higher floors of elevator-less apartment buildings had lower BMIs than their neighbors on lower floors. 

The problem in America? Because of fire safety regulations, stairs are often hard to find. Researchers have previously called for better stair design to combat rising obesity rates. Usually hidden in unmarked corners and blocked by heavy fire doors (sometimes programmed to set off alarms when opened), stairs in most urban buildings are designed to look and feel like emergency exits rather than regular routes. It’s no surprise that people don’t venture up them very often. Contrast that with the large, airy central stairs featured in buildings built before the elevator, like New York’s iconic Grand Central station. They look like they’re meant to be used. 

Incidental exercise—meaning the workout you get from going about your day, not hitting the gym—can have major impacts on public health, researchers have found. Taking the stairs more often isn’t the same as going for a 30-minute run every day, but minor everyday exertions shouldn’t be discounted, either. Because realistically, most people aren't going to stick to their gym schedule anyway. 

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

The Force Field Cloak
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.


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