Vertical Walking may replace ordinary stairs

What are the possibilities for getting from one floor to another? Stairs are the most common solution. They are easy to maintain, low-tech, and easy to use. At least, for people with young, healthy legs. People with disabilities or elderly people might opt for others possibilities to get upstairs, for example by using (stair)lifts or escalators. The Rombout Frieling Lab, a team of international designers located in Eindhoven (NL), proposes a whole new way of going from floor to floor: Vertical Walking.

The idea is based on the current trent of the price increasing of urban land, in addition to more people living in the city. This means that vertical space will be more employed, which in turn will lead to taller buildings. People also tend to get older, which often causes them to have trouble getting up or down the stairs. While (stair)lifts offer a solution, they rely on external power and deprive people of daily exercise, aside from being expensive to install.

The lab presents Vertical Walking as a new ways to get up and down. With only two poles with in between a seat and a footplate, the device takes up less space than an ordinary staircase. Thanks to the materials and the design, the Vertical Walking only uses 10 per cent of the effort than climbing a normal staircase while using no external power. According to the website “[the] prototype has been succes[s]fully tested by a wide range of users, including MS suffering Angelica, Nigerian amputee Abiodun as well as young office tower workers who found it ‘incredibly cool’.”

The device is a hybrid between stairs and a lift, which requires the riders to manually propel themselves up or down using their arms and legs. The user sits down on the chair and pulls two ropes that move the seat upwards. The user then pushes up with their legs, propelling them up the device. Only a fraction of the bodyweight needs to be shifted between the seat and the footplate. Similarly, you can go down without becoming a victim of gravity (see the video below). It is also possible to go up and down only using your arms. However, it is unclear if people who (temporarily) lose use of their arm(s) will be able to use the device as well.

Of course, one can place some question marks with the design. As the website Treehugger points out, the design does not allow for many people to go down in a hurry, for instance during a fire. In addition, the Vertical Walking needs to be able to be hoisted up or down without anyone using it, in case multiple people want to go down before someone goes up, or the other way around.

Still, the idea is interesting and if it takes indeed much less effort than using a staircase, it can definitely benefit many people for whom normal stairs are hard to use.