Do Londoners have it in their nature to stand on the left?
January 19, 2016 2:47 AM   Subscribe

"London’s commuters have learned to withstand vast and unpredictable challenges: track closures; signal failures; engineering works. And they have developed a thick skin. But on that particular Friday, the 11,000 of them who got off at Holborn station between 8.30 and 9.30am faced an unusually severe provocation. As they turned into the concourse at the bottom of the station’s main route out and looked up, they saw something frankly outrageous: on the escalators just ahead of them, dozens of people were standing on the left."
posted by MartinWisse (108 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Flagged as offensive. And sinister.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:54 AM on January 19, 2016 [48 favorites]


The whole London underground is set up to funnel people into walking on the left, particularly when there's foot traffic flowing in both directions down a channel. Why it isn't to walk on the right (which would make sense, what with driving being on the left in the UK, and it generally being better to walk on the side of oncoming traffic) has always confused me. Surely you want to be consistent with good habits in traffic (even if you're not when in the Tube system) not bad?
posted by Dysk at 2:59 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sinister

I see what you did there!

My gut reaction on reading this was bafflement, and then rage, and then understanding.
But I still don't like the idea. I hate, hate, hate getting caught behind people on escalators, and I cannot understand why we don't have this culture of standing on one side of the escalator.

It drives me mad, daily.
posted by Mezentian at 3:00 AM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


They wrote this: The idea had come about after Len Lau, Vauxhall area manager, had gone to Hong Kong on holiday. Lau noticed that passengers on that city’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) were standing calmly on both sides of the escalator and, it seemed, travelling more efficiently and safely as a result.

After two years in Hong Kong and daily MTR commutes, I have literally never seen this. Standing on the wrong side of the escalator here is likely to get you pushed out of the way with very little patience.
posted by frumiousb at 3:06 AM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


After two years in Hong Kong and daily MTR commutes, I have literally never seen this. Standing on the wrong side of the escalator here is likely to get you pushed out of the way with very little patience.

Okay, so it's ten years since I lived in Hong Kong, but in rush hour this was very much a thing because people were packed so tight that nobody on any part of the escalator had space to move forward faster than the escalator moved them.
posted by Dysk at 3:17 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


We might be bad at dancing and expressing our feelings, but say this for the British: when we settle on a convention of public order, we bloody well stick to it. We wait in line.

Witness here the very seeds of destruction lurking within that which is celebrated.

We do not wait in line. We queue.

Vile import. You strike at the heart of our culture, our traditions, our very purity of essence.

No wonder people are standing on the left. No wonder we cancelled TSR-2, gave up National Service and lost the Empire.

Bloody apathetic little country.
posted by Devonian at 3:17 AM on January 19, 2016 [36 favorites]


Except Londoners don't really queue. Wherever the idea that the English like queuing came from, it wasn't from its capital city.
posted by liquidindian at 3:24 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here in Norway we have no escalator culture. People stand on whichever side they please. Almost no-one climb up. The most ridiculous thing I've seen was in the shopping centre in town, when a person in a hurry came running in through the doors, stopped abruptly and stood the whole escalator trip, and then took off running again at the top...
posted by Harald74 at 3:27 AM on January 19, 2016 [46 favorites]


Top 5 reasons Daegu is the worst city in Korea:

5. Most boring food in Korea
4. Warmest city in Korea
3. Most conservative city in Korea
2. Home of the Samsung Lions
1. PEOPLE DON'T WALK ON THE ESCALATORS!!!

This is something that I will go on at length about if you catch me in the wrong mood, so be forewarned. Ugh!
posted by Literaryhero at 3:36 AM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Visitors to London should be greeted at all ports of entry with huge banners saying WELCOME TO LONDON. STAND ON THE RIGHT. It is the first thing you need to know in order not to invoke the inchoate hatred of a thousand strangers. Messing with this formula is a recipe for disaster. I literally gasped with outrage when my husband showed this article to me.

This is how you can tell I've assimilated to life in England, I guess. "Well, it may work for foreigners, but it won't work here!"

(liquidindian, I have to disagree. Londoners may be a pushy-shovier bunch than in the rest of the country, but visit the eastbound Jubilee line platform at London Bridge at 8:30 on a weekday morning and you'll observe commuters for Canary Wharf forming a series of neat little queues to board at each door. It's charming (if you're not traveling in that direction yourself).)
posted by stuck on an island at 3:44 AM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I read the entire article a few days ago, and at the beginning I thought "this is madness." I grew up in Washington, DC and you get yelled at for standing on the left. But as the author of the article goes on to make clear, if something doesn't happen, The Underground -- and probably most major subways -- will be so packed, people will be crushed. So it is a good idea to start the transition now.
posted by terrapin at 3:45 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whichever side you stand or walk on, please keep moving once you step off at the top. You have not climbed a mighty summit, so there is no need to stand there surveying the majestic vistas that have unfolded below you. Just keep moving, yes, over that way will be fine.
posted by zamboni at 3:50 AM on January 19, 2016 [83 favorites]


At the 7 train stop at Grand Central closest to 3rd Avenue there's a crazy long escalator. The prevailing ethics on that one seems to be that the first people to get to it can walk on either side, then the slowpokes arrive and it quickly segues from walking on left to all standing. It seems like a good system to me - most of the crazy walking people (including me) are already in the right car of the subway to be first at the escalator anyhow because prewalking.
posted by Mchelly at 3:52 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, so it's ten years since I lived in Hong Kong, but in rush hour this was very much a thing because people were packed so tight that nobody on any part of the escalator had space to move forward faster than the escalator moved them.

This does happen in rush hour in very crowded stations, sure. But there's no calmly about it, and there's no system. If it lets up a little bit it goes swiftly back to stand on the left and walk on the right...
posted by frumiousb at 3:59 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Or the other way around, actually. Mild dyslexia attack.
posted by frumiousb at 4:00 AM on January 19, 2016


So I always thought that walking patterns matched driving patterns. Like in America we would stand on the right and walk on the left, but in London people would stand on the left and walk on the right. I guess not.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:06 AM on January 19, 2016


> Top 5 reasons Daegu is the worst city in Korea: [...] 1. PEOPLE DON'T WALK ON THE ESCALATORS!!!

Just came back from a trip to Seoul, and to be honest the people there are also pretty unambitious, escalator-wise. There's a vague-ish consensus to stand on the right but often times the order breaks down once there is a crowd and people revert to the mean of the slowest ascender. Which is counter-intuitive after you've spent a day shoulder-to-shoulder and tooth-and-nail in the open markets, where you can get a taste of what the locals think of personal space and territory. In addition many escalators are built to be ridden single file so even if you're in a hurry you'll be going no faster than the person immediately in front of you. (Seocho station exit no. 10, thanks for those bus transfers you've made into miniature real life action dramas).

For whatever it's worth, I don't recall a strong escalator social order in Busan either. So I'm willing to chalk this up to national culture rather than regional quirk.
posted by ardgedee at 4:12 AM on January 19, 2016


I'm not sure about this.
For long escalators like Holborn then it will improve throughput and experiments could be done (should be done, and in fact possibly have been done*) to determine what the escalator length threshold is for that gain.

But I would be very concerned about introducing inconsistency in the system. This is only beneficial for longer escalators, and a consistent, well understood system improves both throughflow and safety. Messing with it is risky.

I also have to take into account that I am super biased because like all Londoners I am FURIOUS at those left standing jerks!

Maybe where you have two escalators going in any one direction you can assign one of them to be standing only and paint it in hot pink or something?

*I am currently within throwing distance of a Rail passenger flow modelling team, who use algorithms which I developed (as well as some good ones, and clever software) to do this sort of modelling and analysis work.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:12 AM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm curious. If the people who insist on their right to walk up escalators encounter a crowd waiting to get on one, do they elbow people aside to get on? Because that's what it sounds like they're doing once they do get on.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:15 AM on January 19, 2016


I just got off the Northern Line from Angel to the Central Line to Shepherds Bush, needing to be at kids school by 12pm sharp. No time to ride it up.

Get the Fuck Out My Way and Stand On The Right, People.

Western Civilisation depends on it.
posted by C.A.S. at 4:16 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think the 'standing on the right' thing is because that's the dominant hand and you might want to hold the handrail.

Kirth Gerson - what happens is that two queues form at the foot or head of the escalator, one waiting to get onto the standing lane, the other for the walking side. It's mildly chaotic at the point where the undifferentiated mass of oncomers hit the ends of the queues, but it sorts itself out.
posted by Devonian at 4:19 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I quickly read the article the other day. It's stand left, walk right in Australia as well. I'm a walker. I don't like standing on escalators and, mostly, it works on public transport in Melbourne. But some of the London Underground escalators are massive rises. Six to seven stories worth. The only thing slightly close in my neighbourhood is Melbourne Central, but I wouldn't put it in the same category. I recollect something similar in Cambridge at Porter Square on the Red Line that was very long. I can understand for those situations why it's better to let the machines handle the people movement. I'd be frustrated, but It makes sense.
posted by michswiss at 4:26 AM on January 19, 2016


Actually, the "Stand on the Right" rule is only the first commandment of the eight-fold path, the ultimate dogma for living in Britain's only 4-dimensional city. London hyper-persons are instructed at the earliest possible age in this octological religion, the full statement of which is as follows: "Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left, Stomp on the Up, Meander on the Down, Shuffle on the Forward, Prance on the Backward, Dilly-dally on the Ana and Traipse on the Kata".

London's hyperdimensionality also explains why house prices are so high in the capital: London houses are containers of 4-dimensional "bulk", rather than 3-dimensional "volume", and the extra freedom of movement comes at a hefty price.

The 4-dimensional nature of the capital further explains the rise of Boris Johnson: the gravitational force in tetraspace diminishes with the cube of the distance, and hence is much weaker, allowing the Mayor of London (and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip) to float beatifically above the political landscape like a bulbous, blonde seagull, warbling 4-dimensional truths into the hearts of the thin and limited occupiers of the regions. Thus he exudes joy and blessedness from extra-dimensional space, which dribbles upon the head of every simple commoner like the wondrous piddle of Christ himself.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:29 AM on January 19, 2016 [85 favorites]


This is a bad idea. Standing on both escalators means nowhere to go; the scales will come off the eyes and we'll realise that 4 people per m2 on a conveyor belt at 32C is actually literally hell, and we'll want out, right now AND WE CAN'T GET OUT.

More prosaically, and more likely, someone's going to grope someone else, and it's somehow going to be TfL's fault.
posted by cromagnon at 4:34 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get the logic of it but just reading the article STRESSED ME OUT from the social convention breaking. It would DEFINITELY have to be a different-colored escalator for me to feel socially soothed enough to stand left, and even then I wouldn't like it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:38 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Our subway stations solve this by having both stairs and escalators so that you can walk on one and stand on the other.
posted by octothorpe at 4:39 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


...only 40% would even contemplate it. By encouraging their preference, TfL effectively halves the capacity of the escalator in question...

I don't see how 40% of people walking on the left halves the capacity. If nobody walked, so that half the escalator was permanently empty, that would halve capacity. But 40/60 sounds reasonable - especially if you take into account that people walking spend less time on the escalator, which must significantly increase its carry rate?
posted by Segundus at 4:40 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think this must be how the ultra-conservatives who are staunchly against progressive social change feel.

I can't precisely articulate why this is wrong and bad, particularly in the face of the statistics which appear to show it improving throughput and therefore being a good idea.

But, my God, this is an appalling travesty which must be fought against. I know, deep in my bones, that this is a horrifying perversion of the natural order of things which will be the doom of all we hold dear and I cannot think of a single argument which would persuade me otherwise.

You Walk. On. The. Left.

What next? Shall we all paint our naked bodies blue and engage in carnal acts with beasts in the gutter?
posted by Dext at 4:44 AM on January 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


Shall we all paint our naked bodies blue and engage in carnal acts with beasts in the gutter?

Of course. Will there be tea?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:48 AM on January 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the Underground (or maybe London more generally) is the only place in the UK where people stand on the right of the escalator. Every time I visit London (from the Midlands) I have to remind myself that people stand on the right and walk on the left. It seems counterintuitive, although it probably isn't - it makes sense for people walking on the left everywhere else to just be able to stay on the left as they reach the escalator.

Everywhere else in the UK, I've noticed that people tend to stand on the left. Mind you, it's pretty rare that you'd see anyone try to overtake someone else on an escalator, anyway, because why would you carry on walking when you're being taken where you want to go by a wonderful machine? Next thing you'll be telling me Londoners drive pedal cars...
posted by pipeski at 4:51 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The planning committee met about this issue. Here is a quick video excerpt.
posted by lalochezia at 4:56 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm only half awake in the morning and I would be bloody furious if I showed up at the tube and they were telling people to stand in both sides of the escalator. I already have fits of rage when people stand on the upper deck of the bus, and I ride the bus to and from work.
posted by toerinishuman at 4:56 AM on January 19, 2016


So, people here in Singapore stand on the left and walk on the right too. I wonder why it's different here, given that people walk on the left, and drive on the left, just like in the UK. I guess because the person walking is essentially overtaking the ones standing, and you overtake on the right?
posted by destrius at 4:57 AM on January 19, 2016


Now I know where all these rude people trying to walk on escalators come from. (Seriously though, it's interesting to watch the distinction between local traffic & people coming in/out of the airport, here in Seattle.)

If you wanted to walk, that's what stairs are for.
posted by CrystalDave at 5:00 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


But I would be very concerned about introducing inconsistency in the system. This is only beneficial for longer escalators, and a consistent, well understood system improves both throughflow and safety. Messing with it is risky.

This would be my concern too. Do we really need to introduce more scope for confusion?

Every time I visit London (from the Midlands) I have to remind myself that people stand on the right and walk on the left.

Please, I beg you. Stay out of my way at Birmingham New Street. The convention, everywhere I've ever observed it in the UK, is to stand on the right. Indeed, escalators have signs to this effect. But people frequently ignore this...EVEN AT FUCKING NEW STREET WITH ITS TINY PLATFORMS AND SHORT ESCALATORS AT QUARTER TO EIGHT ON A MONDAY MORNING.

Please. For the sake of my sanity, stand on the right at New Street, even if nowhere else.
posted by howfar at 5:09 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The TTC tried this in Toronto, with the weak explanation that walking on escalators harms them. It lasted about two weeks in the New York of Guess Culture.

Oddly enough, we stand on the right too in drive-on-the-right Toronto.
posted by scruss at 5:14 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also stand on the right on the Glasgow underground. In so many ways, it's a smaller, gentler, kinder underground system than London's - there's only one line! and it's in a circle, so if you miss your stop you can just wait 20 minutes and be there again! and if the drivers see you running for a train, they will even wait for you! - but you stand on the right on the escalators, otherwise civilization as we know it will collapse.
posted by Catseye at 5:15 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just increase the speed of the escalators by 40%.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you wanted to walk, that's what stairs are for.

It's not a bloody elevator. Escalators ARE stairs. Everyone should be walking, both sides! I don't know what it is about escalators that makes people lazy. I understand that some people aren't capable of making the climb, but they should be the exception, not the rule.
posted by explosion at 5:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


If you wanted to walk, that's what stairs are for.

If you're going to take that tone, the elevator/lift is over there.
posted by zamboni at 5:26 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I always think of this Seinfeld monologue whenever I'm trying to get around someone who's standing on an escalator or moving walkway:

"The other people I hate are the people that get onto the moving walkway and the just stand there. Like it's a ride. Excuse me, there's no animated pirates or bears along the way here."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 5:29 AM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


For those wondering why everyone doesn't just walk on the escalators, or use stairs instead: the deepest Underground stations are nearly 200ft under the surface. That's a lot of steps.
posted by Catseye at 5:41 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I get off at Holborn so I got to see this in action. Compliance with it was very low, exactly for the reasons outlined in the article. Which suggests the impact is in fact greater than what they measured. I'm delighted to find out they incorporated blockers.

And increasing throughfare would really help the overcrowding at the bottom of the escalators.

Next, get us air conditioning.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 5:48 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]




For whatever it's worth, I don't recall a strong escalator social order in Busan either. So I'm willing to chalk this up to national culture rather than regional quirk.

I think it's more that nobody wants to dare receiving the wrath of the halmeoni who's taking her goddamn time resting as is her right after years of toil on the escalator.
posted by qcubed at 5:53 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, there are evil, terrible monsters in Chicago who seem to think it's okay to stand on both sides of the escalator, especially during rush hour.

Goddamn standers, man. We're all trying to get to work. If your legs don't work, stand on the right in Chicago. Or use a Lyft/Uber.
posted by qcubed at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2016


Except Londoners don't really queue. Wherever the idea that the English like queuing came from, it wasn't from its capital city.

Have you not noticed? The English don't live in London anymore, they can't afford to.
posted by eriko at 6:00 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


This article was horrifying to me. It's as if you'd linked to a youtube video that was 3:42 minutes of someone slowly dragging their fingernails down a blackboard while a child screams and a pumpkin gets run over repeatedly.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:03 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Visitors to London should be greeted at all ports of entry with huge banners saying WELCOME TO LONDON. STAND ON THE RIGHT.

I was very relieved to find this true, because it meant while my traffic habits from Chicago were completely wrong*, the Chicago escalator rule matches London. I have no problems on the tube.

Well, other than height. Chicago L cars are short, because they have to make the very sharp turns on the Loop, but they're otherwise standard US track and loading gauge, so there's lots and lots of headroom. Not so much on the deep lines of the Underground.


* I've had "look left, right, and left again" ingrained into my head, and even when I know I need to reverse it, I'll just screw it up, so I end up looking both ways and then a cop asks me if I'm lost. Those little "Look Right" notes they have on the pavement in touristy areas of London? LOVE those.
posted by eriko at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I worked in a building once where the maintenance people convinced themselves that the lifts would work more efficiently if they disabled the buttons and the lifts just went up and down continuously, stopping at every floor. They announced this would be the new system as of a certain day and got a swift note back from the chief executive telling them no, it bloody well wouldn't.
posted by Segundus at 6:05 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


For those of us with mobility issues, climbing escalators is going to be slower than if I just stand out of the way and ride it up. Since convention is different everywhere, I usually watch the traffic pattern before engaging in it, so as to put myself in the least danger of falling, or getting in the way.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:05 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems like a good system to me - most of the crazy walking people (including me) are already in the right car of the subway to be first at the escalator anyhow because prewalking.

There's a term for that? I do that all the time, always take the long walk at O'Hare, because that means I'm right at the correct exit for Logan Square.
posted by eriko at 6:05 AM on January 19, 2016


Maybe where you have two escalators going in any one direction you can assign one of them to be standing only and paint it in hot pink or something?

This is actually what the London Underground concluded it should try next:
The next trial, if it happens, will focus on one escalator alone; it will investigate whether customers can be persuaded to stand without loudhailer-brandishing staff to monitor them. The handrail and tread of the escalator will be a different colour, and firmly planted pairs of feet will decorate the left of the steps. In lieu of actual people, a hologram customer service operative will remind people to stand on both sides.
As someone who used to walk up escalators all the time when the subway was part of my daily commute, I initially thought this was a prank (why would you SWITCH the side to stand on?) before realizing that it's not "don't walk on the left," it's "don't walk ANYWHERE." Oddly, this suddenly made much more sense to me, especially for really long escalators.
posted by chrominance at 6:08 AM on January 19, 2016


Thing is, if there is clear space in front of you on an escalator, how are you doing anything other than improving escalator capacity by moving forward into it? Standing still is surely always worse - why not just encourage everyone to walk, and mene reserve one side of one escalator for those who can't?

(And yes, a lot of London Underground escalators are very long, but because they also move, the walk is actually deceptively short, so stop with the excuses and start putting one leg in front of the other.)
posted by Dysk at 6:14 AM on January 19, 2016


The reason people don't take the stairs is because they are in a rush. Escalators already move at something similar to a stair-climbing pace, and by walking on the escalator you can double your speed compared to either taking the stairs or riding the escalator alone. People aren't generally walking just because they feel like climbing hundreds of stairs, they're doing it because otherwise they'll be late.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe where you have two escalators going in any one direction you can assign one of them to be standing only and paint it in hot pink or something?

This is actually what the London Underground concluded it should try next


That's good to hear, because it means that I am an effective transport policy consultant! Who wants their transport policies consulted on! Roll up, roll up.

Standing still is surely always worse

True walking is faster, but the issue is that when people don't want to walk you get huge queues at the bottom on the standing side when the walking side is empty, so they're trying to improve usage.
It's a flow problem, not a speed of ascent problem.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:22 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


So why not fix the faulty side of the equation (encourage walking for those who could walk but instead lazily stand) rather than the efficient side (encourage those who walk to stand)?
posted by Dysk at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


People with canes, packages, kids, strollers, bad knees, bad hips, fear of falling, not in hurry?
posted by cacofonie at 6:31 AM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


You really really shouldn't be taking strollers or bulky packages on the escalator anyway, and I believe TfL already advise as much. Again, why not just dedicate one side of one escalator to standers, and encourage those who can but don't to walk?
posted by Dysk at 6:36 AM on January 19, 2016


Henry Rollins - Airport Hell
posted by bukvich at 6:43 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it's baffling when long threads have favourites in the single digits, but not here: favouriting this story would surely send some sort of SIGNAL that standing on the escalators is less than a CRIME, and that would just not be the done thing.

So, we have a trial that demonstrated that this simple change increased peak-hour carrying capacity by almost 30%. We can assume that the only other way to achieve that would be to build 30% more escalators in the affected stations, at a cost of many millions of pounds that we keep being told we don't have, with endless disruptions to commuters during their construction, which would more than cancel out a lifetime's worth of whatever time-savings they get by being able to walk up the left now and again. Even those time-savings must be illusory, though, if the gain in being able to walk up the escalators is more than cancelled out by being stuck in a crowd at the bottom of them first, as it must be if the throughput under current arrangements is 20% less.

But we will now spend that extra money, at enormous cost to the nation and inconvenience to Londoners themselves, because having to stand behind someone when you're trying to get somewhere is unconscionable.
posted by rory at 6:53 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Again, why not just dedicate one side of one escalator to standers, and encourage those who can but don't to walk?

If I'm heading to work, TfL can go shit in its hat if it's telling me to hurry.
posted by Etrigan at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whichever side you stand or walk on, please keep moving once you step off at the top.

I wish that escalators in high-traffic areas had big yellow semicircles painted at the top with "DO NOT STOP" in big letters. Get ten feet away, and then you can gawk or check your map or whatthefuckever it is that you're doing. You're not going to miss an off-ramp if you keep moving.
posted by Etrigan at 6:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Couldn't they increase the throughput by a few tens of percentage points just by making the escalators move a bit faster? I realize that there must be people out there for whom the current speed is right on the edge of being manageable, but I've also noticed that there is already a bit of variation in escalator speeds between train stations, airport escalators (the fastest I think), department stores and so on. Why not set them all to "airport speed"?

Also, this attempt at changing people's crowd behaviour reminds me of when I first moved to Seoul and they were running a campaign on the subway line to try and get people to keep to the right when walking along the corridors that connect platforms at interchange stations. They had painted a median line down the middle of the corridor, with arrows on the floor, posters, videos on the video screens to remind you etc. At my local station people seemed to be just ignoring it, possibly because there was a gentle curve in the corridor, and the crowd going in the dominant direction would try to take the inside lane to cut the corner. One day I saw a guy in a business suit (just a regular commuter as far as I can tell, not a station employee) having a bit of a meltdown because he was trying to walk the way the signs and the posters were telling him to, headlong into a torrent of people coming the other direction, shouting "OOOOOOO CHUUUUK BOOOOOOO HEEEEENGGG!!! OOOOOOO CHUUUUK BOOOOOOO HEEEEENGGG!!!" (KEEEP RIIIIGHT!!! KEEEP RIIIIGHT!!!) at everyone coming towards him.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:59 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


“Japan rewrites the rules on using escalators and urges people to stop walking up,” Julian Ryall, The Telegraph, 26 August 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 7:04 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I recollect something similar in Cambridge at Porter Square on the Red Line that was very long

Pssst, don't tell anyone but when I was a bit injured I discovered that the slow slow slow elevator was as fast as the fastest walkers up that long escalator. :-)
posted by sammyo at 7:08 AM on January 19, 2016


I wish that escalators in high-traffic areas had big yellow semicircles painted at the top with "DO NOT STOP" in big letters.

Some do, or at least some sort of signage indicating that.
I'd go further and suggest it should be prosecutable as a public danger.

I was once on a packed escalator (both sides standing) at rush hour when a whole family, suitcases and all came to an abrupt halt at the top of the escalator. People piled unstoppably into them as if they were being propelled by some sort of mechanical unstoppable staircase, and the bewildered and large suitcase toting father of the family got more and more stubborn and indignant at what he saw as this torrent of rude people pushing him.
I got there after all available space at the top had been taken up and me and another guy had to physically drag this guy out of the way, because another 5 or 10 seconds more and people would have started falling down the long packed escalator. It was legitimately a terrifying prospect.

Then we had to calm the furious tourist down a bit by indicating mainly in sign language that he'd nearly maimed about 100 people.
Fun!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:10 AM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Whichever side you stand or walk on, please keep moving once you step off at the top.

The absolutely worst people are those who stop at both the bottom and the top of the escalators, just so they can sort out the telescopic handles of their stupid, stupid wheely luggage.
posted by bebrogued at 7:10 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whichever side you stand or walk on, please keep moving once you step off at the top.

The absolutely worst people are those who stop at both the bottom and the top of the escalators, just so they can sort out the telescopic handles of their stupid, stupid wheely luggage.


Union Station in Toronto has employees who manhandle frozen pedestrians away from the ends of escalators as needed. I used to think that the presence of 押し屋 (pushers) on subways in Japan was strange and outlandish, but I suppose it is the same general principle.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:21 AM on January 19, 2016


I've taken the longest/tallest escalator in the Western Hemisphere, and while I'm typically an escalator walker, that sucker was long. From the top, it was pretty much vertigo-inducing. From the bottom, I'd figure you're looking at five or ten minutes of continuous stair climbing. For me, that's not an incredible hardship, but I'd probably be out of breath, and fundamentally, I'm seldom actually in that much of a hurry. So I stood.

I mean, I get it. I am irritated on a daily basis by people standing willy-nilly on escalators and making it harder for me to progress. But at the same time, I'm not entirely sure why we need to make life slightly worse for the 95% of people who aren't looking to self-power their daily 250 foot vertical ascent just to appease the 5% of people who want to get to their destination 2 or 3 minutes faster. It would be a terrible policy for the vast majority of escalators, but for the long ones that people already aren't climbing in any significant numbers, I can see how all-standing makes sense.
posted by Copronymus at 7:31 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


But at the same time, I'm not entirely sure why we need to make life slightly worse for the 95% of people who aren't looking to self-power their daily 250 foot vertical ascent just to appease the 5% of people who want to get to their destination 2 or 3 minutes faster.

TfL's stats suggest it's a 60/40 split, not 95/5.
posted by Dysk at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2016


Once they declassify anti-gravity technology, we can just have slides that go UP!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2016


TfL's stats suggest it's a 60/40 split, not 95/5.

To me, "only 40% would even contemplate it," implies that the number of people actually doing it is a fair bit lower than that. Certainly the graphic they put in there looks more skewed than 60/40, which is what I was making my assumption on, but I grant that it could be intentionally or unintentionally misleading for any number of reasons.
posted by Copronymus at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2016


a person in a hurry came running in through the doors, stopped abruptly and stood the whole escalator trip, and then took off running again at the top...

This is entirely rational behavior. If you've got a flat-escalator-flat path to traverse before arriving at your destination, running up the escalator wastes energy you can use for getting a good sprint in on the last flat segment. Plus running up the escalator's a lot more likely to result in injury (to you, to bystanders) than running practically anywhere else.

If you wish to verify these results experimentally, try the method by which I test these hypotheses. I call it "late for everything my whole life."
posted by asperity at 7:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think there should be special supermax prisons for the people who insist on walking down the right side of subway staircases (their left) while there's a giant wave of people coming up all walking on the (their) right. I've been known to stop dead in front of them, give them an icy smile, and say, "Hope you're not in a hurry. I know I'm not." They usually move over. I haven't gotten stabbed or shoved down the stairs yet -- hope it lasts.
posted by holborne at 8:21 AM on January 19, 2016


Shall we all paint our naked bodies blue and engage in carnal acts with beasts in the gutter?

The blue paint would be an interesting change to the tradition.
posted by srboisvert at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


In case it hasn't been mentioned upthread, I haven't read all of the comments. Some people like me, have bad knees or other issues that make it painful or even physically damaging to walk up escalators. We take the escalator to avoid crawling up stairs.
posted by Splunge at 9:07 AM on January 19, 2016


I was once on a packed escalator (both sides standing) at rush hour when a whole family, suitcases and all came to an abrupt halt at the top of the escalator.

This is why we need to bring back disciplinary public humiliations like the stocks and the pillory.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


People with canes, packages, kids, strollers, bad knees, bad hips, fear of falling, not in hurry?

You have to enter this other world of odd long semi-deserted corridors and hidden away lifts and devious alternative routes and stations that only intersects with the real world on occasion, inhabited by an intrepid wandering band of people in wheelchairs or with kids in strollers or just lots of bulky luggage.

I did it a year or so ago... it was like being in a Neil Gaiman or China Miellville novel.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Walk left, stand right. It's ingrained into my psyche, it's about 60% of what makes me a functional sapient human.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 9:35 AM on January 19, 2016


Whichever side you stand or walk on, please keep moving once you step off at the top.

A corollary to this at underground and train stations:

Once you are through the ticket barrier, KEEP FUCKING MOVING. Do not stop to put your Oyster card or ticket away or stand right in the middle of foot traffic waiting for someone else, or I swear to Bakerthuloo, the dark unholy elder god of Transport for London, that I will use your lifeless body to bridge the gap between the platform and the train.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:12 AM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is madness. Some of the very few bright spots in my time commuting in London were old ladies shoving left-standers to the right as they steamrolled up the escalators.
Ticket barrier dawdlers can, and should, simply be shouldered aside while loudly sucking your teeth at them.
posted by Kreiger at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Human railgun left, stand right.
posted by user92371 at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


At the supermarket I go to most frequently they have two movators (escalator ramps) so that people can take their shopping carts down to the exit. Once a shopping cart is on the movator it locks until it gets to the bottom. What invariably happens is that people with shopping carts will alternate between the two movators making it impossible for people not using a shopping cart to go any faster than the movator so they are stuck waiting behind these people and their shopping carts. I almost always have a shopping cart so it isn't something that affects me personally but I feel for those people who just dropped in for a bag of milk and some bread and now are stuck on the thing.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this thread contentious enough without bringing Canada's proclivity for bagged milk into it? Cartons please. And stand on the right!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Human railgun left, stand right.
It's called a Hyperloop.
posted by qcubed at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2016


Is that some sort of eponysterical, ActingTheGoat, or am I being udderly ridiculous?
posted by howfar at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


So walking on the left -- is that my left, or your left?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2016


After seeing people's reactions I'd almost suggest charging for use of a walking escalators to see the wrought madness it would bring
posted by halifix at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2016


I recollect something similar in Cambridge at Porter Square on the Red Line that was very long

Pssst, don't tell anyone but when I was a bit injured I discovered that the slow slow slow elevator was as fast as the fastest walkers up that long escalator. :-)

Do people not urinate in the transit system elevators Elsewhere? In Chicago, people don't use the CTA elevators unless we are physically unable to use other routes. Or unless they have anosmia I guess. or I guess maybe some people are into that
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:45 AM on January 19, 2016


In DC the escalators are so slow, who has time to stand there. Well I mean I do, I have a bad knee. But yeah times I've walked up on the left and there's someone just standing there, with all their tourist crap, makes me see red.

And I just moved here a year ago.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2016


One escalator walking, one escalator standing.

AND DO WATERLOO FIRST. I WILL FUCKING PAY YOU.
posted by aihal at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2016


OVER

MY

DEAD

BODY
posted by axon at 1:22 PM on January 19, 2016


If if you've ever wondered why we do it, and why so many tourists get lost in translation, the answer may lie in a piece of film from the 1920s.

Underground is Anthony Asquith's 1928 classic where passions run deep in a tale of jealousy, treachery and even murder.

It was partly shot at Waterloo station and it was one of the first times the Tube system had appeared on film.

The escalator design had a diagonal step-off, clearly meant for the right foot first so standing on the right made sense.”
posted by Auz at 1:39 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Joking aside, the idea of a solidly packed escalator fundamentally disturbs me because it seems so precarious. With the open lane on the left, a stumble or a scuffle has somewhere to spill out, and you've got space to step around the idiot doing a Mr. Bean impression at the top.

The numbers from the trial leave me a little confused too:

An escalator that carried 12,745 customers between 8.30 and 9.30am in a normal week, for example, carried 16,220 when it was designated standing only.

Where did all those extra people come from? If they were there queuing up for that one escalator all along, it would mean that under normal conditions a three and half thousand strong crowd ends up stuck at the bottom by the time 9:30 rolls around. Holborn's pretty rough, but it doesn't get that bad, so presumably the other up escalators must have been made less busy, right?

That said, I wish them luck in finding novel ways to smooth the flow of people, especially if they can find some way to stop the dawdlers. The Piccadilly platform at Holborn gets incredibly dangerous as the wall of people (supplied by the effective crowd valve that an escalator is) pushes down from the corridor, and it's only getting busier.
posted by lucidium at 3:19 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having only visited the UK once, and not having noticed anything about escalator conduct, this article and thread confuse me. The article seems to be positing that people in the UK stand on the right but don't stand on the left, and that needs to be changed. Yet the comments from people in the UK in this thread seem to be positing that people in the UK already stand on the left and they BETTER FUCKING STOP!

Also, is it a Britishism to use "stand on the left" to mean "stand on the left as well" (or the eminently clearer "stand on both sides")? Every time the expression was used I momentarily got confused into thinking they were talking about getting people to stand on the left and walk on the right, instead of vice versa.
posted by Bugbread at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2016


The proposal is to get people to stand on both sides, bugbread - i.e. not have a lane for walking up or down the escalators, which goes against 1000 70 years of London tradition. The trial suggests that this will mean the escalators can carry 30% more people during rush-hour, when they're at their busiest.

The current tube rule is to stand on the right, walk on the left, which is the opposite of some places, so visitors often get it wrong, blocking the locals trying to walk up the escalators. The cumulative effect of such annoyances on a populace who have been taught that they "mustn't grumble" creates a pressure-cooker of repressed commuter rage which finds an outlet in comments threads, occasional riots, and electing Boris Johnson mayor.
posted by rory at 4:50 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Seems like you wouldn't need to enforce for long. Once you filled up the moving escalated to max density (both sides), there's nowhere for the walkers to go. Isn't it self perpetuating? Until a lull in the action I guess.

These habits are super-strong, though. I kept walking into people in Japan because the default there seems to be pass on the left. I'm used to pass on the right. So in a meeting situation, we reflexively step into each other, both trying to avoid a collision. It was super-hard to STOP doing that, even when I KNEW what was happening. (See also, lining up for an elevator or train door in the center instead of at a 45° angle to the side.)
posted by ctmf at 8:09 PM on January 19, 2016


“Japan rewrites the rules on using escalators and urges people to stop walking up,” Julian Ryall, The Telegraph, 26 August 2015


Doesn't seem to be working, as far as I can tell.
Osaka: stand right, walk left.
Tokyo: stand left, walk right.
posted by emmling at 10:00 PM on January 19, 2016


Brixton tube station recently refurbished its escalators, meaning that only one was open in each direction. This led to massive congestion while people waited to get on - literally queues out of the gates, through the ticket office and along the high street.

TFL employed a guy to stand at the bottom of the escalator in rush hour and encourage and cajole people on the left to walk down, in the way that you might encourage a nervous toddler to take their first steps. He was great. They should bring him back.
posted by tinkletown at 1:57 AM on January 20, 2016


There's actually some fascinating research into the way people move in different cities, which I can summarize, but don't have a link to.

The paper suggests that in different cities people negotiate collision avoidance unconsciously, so the collision avoidance rules bubble up from emergent behaviour and it might be that in one city people stop, sidestep to the left whereas in a another city they angle their walking path slightly to the right and don't slow down, or whatever the rules are, they are followed or you walk into people, so you learn to do it to. This of course means that whenever you go somewhere else you're constantly bumping into people and start thinking that everyone in that city is rude and pushy.

The other interesting takeaway is that there is no rule for how these rules develop and they're city bound, so London and Birmingham, or Boston and New York might have completely different collision avoidance rules despite being geographically close to each other.

I'll try and find the research online if I can.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:57 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just this guy, y'know, is it one of these researchers?
posted by rory at 2:32 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


TFL employed a guy to stand at the bottom of the escalator in rush hour and encourage and cajole people on the left to walk down

This guy. And he was encouraging people on both sides to walk down.
posted by liquidindian at 2:58 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rory, good link.
It may well have been through them. I t was research related to my old job, so I don't have access to all my files anymore.
We certainly used UCL research for some things, so, yeah?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:17 AM on January 20, 2016


I don’t understand how the people that think everyone should walk possibly imagine that everyone would be walking at the same speed, what the appropriate speed would be, or how that would work.
posted by bongo_x at 9:59 PM on January 22, 2016


Any forward speed is better than zero.
posted by Dysk at 1:38 AM on January 23, 2016


Yeah, it's not a grand silent conspiracy of pedestrian strength. If there's a space ahead of you, step into it. If spaces continue to open up, keep walking. You go the speed of the people ahead of you unless you can't keep up, in which case you go slower.
posted by ardgedee at 5:15 AM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just imagine that in reality there would be more bumping into each other and griping in general than if people just stood still.
posted by bongo_x at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2016


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