In the twenty-four seven news cycle with its focus on all sorts of people behaving badly, “The Naughty Strategy” could set the imagination in motion over its endless possibilities. But the imagination would be sorely disappointed to learn that the truth almost requires no imagination at all. At its most basic element, the naughty strategy is the one employed by designers of public spaces such as strip malls and school parking lots. Instead of an intuitive design that allows ease of traffic movement, any number of speed bumps, one-way traffic patterns and curbs are aimed at someone’s idea of behavior control through design.
Most recently, the New York City Health Commission has embarked on a mission to make people practice healthier behavior by taking the stairs. As a result the city will “advise” builders but not necessarily compel them to create quality stair designs. For this they might earn LEED credits or tax credits or expedited approval or more for appealing stair designs that beckon foot travelers to eschew elevators and escalators in favor of stairs. In such a world a naughty design, wink, wink, might be the creation of smaller, slower elevators and presumably larger, more attractive stairs.
In a city with more than 54,000 elevators and around 30 million elevator trips daily, old Elisha Otis could not have imagined how he was contributing to mass indolence when he invented the elevator. Men who climb more than 55 flights of stairs each week have a 33 percent lower mortality rate than their peers who are probably using those small, slow elevators. And so it has come to pass that stair climbing is being encouraged with an array of naughty designs such as skip-stop elevators and centrally located glass stairways. No word on whether the New York City health Commission plans to make use of not so naughty designs by a certain Mr. Lanny Potts of Tulsa Oklahoma. He invented the Stairmaster in 1983.
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