An escalator can never break, it can only become terrifying
February 22, 2017 9:58 PM   Subscribe

 
Fake or not. Always remember: Machines don't care if it hurts.
posted by Windopaene at 10:14 PM on February 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


Great, I'm already nervous enough on escalators. What if Eugene Tooms has built a nest underneath?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:20 PM on February 22, 2017 [18 favorites]


I think the [fake] is that they won't make you even slightly nervous - ie. they will make you slightly nervous.
posted by quinndexter at 10:28 PM on February 22, 2017


Googling "escalator accident" instantly fills a page with all too real links I'm scared to click on. Whilst an Isadora Duncan moment with a somebody's shoe or scarf is scary enough - I do at least have confidence (possibly misplaced) that there might be auto-shut off mechanisms designed to act. For the scenario of a pile up of people caused by a crowd stuck at the bottom - I have more fear.

And this comes to the surface a little every time I am following whose gargantuan lack awareness makes them decide the area immediately at the bottom of a crowded escalator is a suitable place to stop and tie their shoelaces/argue with their kid/stare open mouthed at a dropped coin. Wish I could say that hardly ever happens.

OK - just one example here caused by "less experienced transport users"
posted by rongorongo at 10:30 PM on February 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


Mod note: Removed confusing fake tag, carry on.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:31 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


The most terrifying one is missing: poo-scalators
posted by jamaro at 10:42 PM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Walk upstairs. Burn fat, keep your toes. Win win.
posted by greenhornet at 10:45 PM on February 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Related: the escalator to nowhere
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2017


I have no idea how these people got their shoes wedged in these... oh never mind.
posted by prismatic7 at 11:10 PM on February 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


These make parkour look like the safer option for moving between floors.
Achievement unlocked.
posted by mosk at 11:50 PM on February 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Shoes nothing, there is a body behind every one of those pics. A carnivorous escalator started eating my maxi dress at a gawdawful airport parking garage last summer. It was up to my upper thigh before someone found the emergency stop button. If I'd been alone, I'd be just another picture of shoes today, since shoes are the one thing escalators don't like to eat.
posted by SakuraK at 12:01 AM on February 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


that kid is *back* on the escalator again!
posted by gkr at 12:19 AM on February 23, 2017 [24 favorites]


Now I'm curious about the comparison between the accident rates of stairs and escalators. You can trip and get hurt on stairs, but when riding an escalator you just stand there, which is presumably safer.

The danger of escalators comes from malfunctions and the occasional foot or article of clothing getting wedged in the escalator.

I wonder if anyone has collected meaningful statistics on this. Probably public works engineers and escalators manufacturers have this information.
posted by Sleeper at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


why, it's almost as though they should mark the edges of escalators and the ends of them, and maybe put up signs about precautions, to indicate how to avoid danger

maybe some yellow paint, i dunno. just spitballin
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:35 AM on February 23, 2017 [13 favorites]


Once at an airport I attempted to navigate an escalator with an unlaced sneaker. Unsurprisingly, the lace got caught in part of the mechanism and I actually fractured one of the bones in my foot when the caught lace was pulled away. Signage is all very well, but mistakes do happen.
posted by Peter B-S at 12:44 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yes, accidents do happen - I know a person with an escalator-teeth shaped scar on their kneecap.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:48 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


I guess this is why they had those terrifying "no sneakers" signs on escalators when I was little that scared the crap out of me. Those are all sneakers in those pictures.
I'm already slightly afraid of escalators after being on one at a BART station that stopped abruptly on the way down, it's just a miracle everyone was holding on and there wasn't a domino effect. Now I just walk down the stairs (at least on BART with their crappy escalators that break every other week)
posted by bleep at 12:51 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here's a comparison of escalators and elevators:
There are about 33,000 escalators operating in the U.S. – far fewer than the number of elevators. But injuries occur more frequently on escalators, about 15 times more frequently than elevators. Although entrapment – in which a body part or piece of clothing becomes wedged in the gaps between the moving parts of an escalators – is often a high-profile issue because those incidents typically involve small children, falls on and over escalators account for three-quarters of all escalator injuries. Falls often cause more severe injuries and more fatalities.
I haven't found anything directly comparing escalators to stairs, but the stuff I've found on stairs and escalators separately does make it seem lik escalators are more dangerous than plain stairs.
posted by Sleeper at 1:10 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Not that long ago here in Seattle a gentleman fell at the BOTTOM of the down escalator, which caught his shirt and promptly strangled him to death. People didn't realize there was an issue right away, either. A pretty sad situation.

Approach with caution.
posted by taterpie at 1:22 AM on February 23, 2017


makes you appreciate the stuntwork in this music video all the more.
posted by Fraxas at 3:15 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


This is why properly adjusted escalators have basically zero clearance between the moving bits and the nonmoving bits. Even a shoelace should lack the clearance to get between the tread and the landing. As with all things, cheaping out on maintenance is a source of danger.

However, since escalator death and maiming is reasonably rare and never as newsworthy (in the OMGWTFBBQ!CNN sense), the rigorous inspection, extra safety equipment and all around fear that has made elevators so safe, as long as you stay in the damn thing when they are malfunctioning, has not extended to escalators.

I mean people basically never die, or even suffer minor injuries in elevators. They have several layers of safety system to make sure it doesn't happen. Escalators, on the other hand, lack the safety sensors that could stop them from delivering passengers into a crush zone or detect..ingestion..of foreign objects. Instead they rely on being in good repair, which isn't something that can really be relied upon.
posted by wierdo at 3:24 AM on February 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


I once saw a plumpish elderly woman who was clearly a little nervous get onto an up escalator in a department store and fall over. She began rolling down helplessly at exactly the same rate the escalator was going up, so there seemed to be no reason why this process shouldn't continue indefinitely. I should have helped instead of standing there gawping, but how? If I tried to get to her we would just end up in a kind of Katamari, and I couldn't see an emergency button.

Luckily there were brighter and more determined people than me around who stopped the thing somehow and picked her up. I bet she never went on another escalator in her life.
posted by Segundus at 3:32 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


A woman just fell to her death from an escalator in NYC last week. I am definitely scared of escalators.

I fell down an escalator when I was 3. I don't remember it, though I still have a tiny scar from it below my lip and a fear of going down both stairs and escalators that sometimes has me clutching the handrail even when it's only a few feet high. There are apartments we took out of consideration because of spiral staircases that freaked me out.

The new subway station at Hudson Yards is closest to my work, but wow did it take me a few weeks of clutching the handrail for dear life and positioning myself directly behind someone so wouldn't have to look at the steep drop. I'm now at the point where I can walk down it like a normal human (still holding tight, but no one has to know that). That one even had me nervous going up, the pitch is so steep.

So I laugh at Trump's fear of stairs, but man, I get it. And escalators aren't always better.
posted by Mchelly at 3:43 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


For the scenario of a pile up of people caused by a crowd stuck at the bottom - I have more fear.

I ride the Nanjing city metro every morning, and there is one particular down escalator with really shitty traffic flow design. Couple that with it being near the railway station, so you get plenty of yokels in the big city for the first time, and it seems like half the time I am dodging around some moron who has decided to gawp right at the bottom. Just this morning I was pretty close to shoving a guy out of the way, it just seemed crazy dangerous the way he was potentially blocking the mass of people debarking.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:45 AM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


I mean people basically never die, or even suffer minor injuries in elevators...

There was one horrific exception to this in New York a few years ago at an ad agency [NYT - no graphic images but you still might not want to click]- it really affected a lot of the industry since so many people (including me) had worked with her or knew her, and had been in those elevators. The entire agency ended up moving, after being in that building for decades.
posted by Mchelly at 3:48 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


The main downtown mall where I work has had the escalators out of service intermittently since the fall. This matters, because this is Canada and the escalators are the main indoor transport corridor for all the people who work in the various buildings that connect to each other through the pedways including the lunch time traffic flow from two high schools and some senior complexes. Dinky and inconveniently placed elevators are barely sufficient to handle the stroller/wheelchair/walker pedestrians at the best of times during rush hours, let alone all the people who want to take them up when the alternative is to actually climb the escalator like stairs..

From time to time they get enough complaints from the convention centres or the mall merchants that they switch the up escalators back on, but the down ones remain switched off. There's not actually anything broken. A small child lost a finger in one of the up escalators and they can't afford the insurance to run them, let alone to replace them.

Come to think of it, for several years now there has ALWAYS been a security guard posted at the top of the escalator that comes up by the swimming pool complex. I bet the guard is posted there so that there is someone on duty to switch the thing off fast.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:23 AM on February 23, 2017


I did that. As a child. I remember it being fun to let the escalator push my feet across onto the flat. I kind of remember being wheeled out of the store in a wheel chair, but no memory of the accident. Have both feet and all toes fully functional (other than a recent pulled achilles that just hangs on)

Be careful out there riding.

(now am oddly concerned that over time mifi will be invading every odd memory I've suppressed, also oddly comforting)
posted by sammyo at 4:27 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was once running a bit too exuberantly up an escalator. I tripped hard and discovered how pointy and bitey escalators really are. Taking a shinner from a metal bike platform pedal is somehow mild in comparison. The pain they can dish out is uniquely, profoundly exquisite. They're metaphorically the tarantula hawk or bullet ant of the people-moving world.

I can't even watch random videos of people biffing it on escalators, or horsing around on escalators. I no longer horse around at all anywhere near an escalator. They make me nervous.

And really long and overly full escalators have always freaked me out, because I have all too clear of a picture of how the damn things work. There's a couple of monsters in the LA subway system, and I remember some really long ones at Disneyland's new-ish giant parking garage.
posted by loquacious at 4:39 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Some of the escalators in the DC Metro system are mind-blowing in their height/length.

The one at Foggy Bottom comes to mind, but I'm sure there are other, longer ones:

Here's a picture of it.
posted by Thistledown at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Came for the Mitch Hedberg quote and was disappointed. So here it is:

"An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience."
posted by hearthpig at 5:11 AM on February 23, 2017 [11 favorites]


Also, to add to the spectrum of vague possibilities: I have a memory as a very young child of travelling in Downtown Chicago with an elderly aunt who somehow got the loose skin of her arm caught in the handrest track and suffered a bloody gash as a result. However, no one in my family currently alive seems to remember this and all the folks in a position to verify the story have passed on...
posted by hearthpig at 5:13 AM on February 23, 2017


Machinery with moving parts is always more dangerous than static structures. That said, there's no reason escalators can't be fitted with safety mechanisms that would prevent injuries resulting from getting stuff caught in the works. You can buy a device for your table saw that will instantly stop the blade if your finger touches it. A sufficiently motivated and clever engineer could design something similar for escalators, if such a thing doesn't already exist.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:18 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign,

"If you're in escalator repair, kill yourself now"
posted by thelonius at 5:25 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


The rather long subway escalator in Porter Square Cambridge Ma frequently has all the steps removed for mainatence, left open without a barricade of some kind would be irresponsible. (On googling there seems to have been an elderly fatality, that's sad).
posted by sammyo at 5:38 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Worked in the legal department of a major mall developer in an earlier life. Escalators provided a lot of work.
posted by krtzmrk at 5:49 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not that long ago here in Seattle a gentleman fell at the BOTTOM of the down escalator, which caught his shirt and promptly strangled him to death.

This happened to me, but fortunately, it was the back of my coat that got pulled in (and part of one coat sleeve). When the firefighters finally managed to get me out, the nurses at the hospital had a million stories to tell me about how lucky I was to be alive and in possession of all my fingers based on the outcomes of other escalator accidents they'd seen. Shiver.
posted by pangolin party at 5:49 AM on February 23, 2017


"An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience."

As someone who slipped down a rain-soaked stopped escalator because she was too lazy to go to the other station entrance half a block away, let me assure you, it's a totally different experience than falling down regular stairs. An escalator is stairs with teeth, and they fucking hurt.
posted by gladly at 5:50 AM on February 23, 2017 [7 favorites]


For the scenario of a pile up of people caused by a crowd stuck at the bottom - I have more fear.

I was on one of those terrifyingly steep escalators in DC with my Mom once when this happened. A lady at the bottom had luggage, it was turned the wrong way, and it trapped her and her husband behind it. There was a lot of shouting and you could see that it was about to go wrong really fast.

I was young and fit back then, and I vaulted the escalator rail and perched on the ramp/slope between the up and down escalator, and then tried to encourage my Mom to do the same. She gave it one attempt before she shook her head, turned around, and started walking back up. Everyone else around her did the same, so it was like 40 people walking up the down escalator in an attempt to keep the situation under control. (I just sort of sat in the middle trying not to slide to my doom).

There must have been some kind of emergency shut off, because they did get the escalator shut down pretty quickly, and then there was a few minutes of prying the luggage out and sorting everything out. No one was seriously injured, but I think back on it and how bad it could have been if it had been rush hour and it makes me crazy paranoid every time I'm on an escalator.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:51 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Any technology that allows for this use case cannot be called, in any meaningful sense, "dangerous" imo
posted by middleclasstool at 6:00 AM on February 23, 2017


Related music video: Battles & Gary Numan, "My Machines"
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:13 AM on February 23, 2017


Actually, I find the lack of blood in any of these to be heartening, indeed. Whatever the safety mechanisms are (manual or auto) they seem to work well at avoiding the loss of toes, etc.

So, hop on that elevator with no fear!

(Sure, I'm a stairs guy myself, but you do you.)
posted by oddman at 6:14 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine has the morbid habit of watching worst-of-the-web type videos and has passed on to me horrifying stories of escalator maimings and deaths, many of them from China for some reason. The one that has stuck with me is of Xiang Liujuan who pushed her young son to safety when a panel at the top of the escalator collapsed beneath them - she wasn't even on the moving portion of the machine. [CNN article about Xiang Liujuan's death, and other escalator accidents around the same time] Note: the article includes a non-autoplay video of security camera footage of her saving her son's life and does not show her death, but it's still upsetting to watch.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:17 AM on February 23, 2017


I love Mitch Hedberg, and that joke, but the reason you were disappointed is because we're talking about how there is such a thing as a broken escalator and how people gave died recently because of it.

I have always, always been terrified of escalators. Even now I have to stand there and count several steps go by and get the rhythm before I dare step on. I never turn around. I keep my feet together, facing forward, and stand awkwardly still. I was probably 11 years old before i'd go on without having to hold my mom's hand. I remember being 14 and planning to go to the mall that weekend with my friends and having almost panic all week thinking about how I'm going to have to ride one and coming up with elaborate plans to try and avoid it.

When I was like 17 some friends and I took a trip to DC and I remember being on the Foggy Bottom escalator and I was documenting our experience. I had never seen an escalator so big and (being 17) I'd assumed no one else outside of the city had either. So I got my phone out, started at the bottom, and recorded our whole trip up. Later, we go back to show our friends the video the of THE BIGGEST ESCALATOR EVER. In the background a man comes into frame as he walks down the descending escalator. As my sister talks about how dangerous this seems, how it shouldn't be this big, etc, the man proceeds to trip. He almost faceplants, but manages to grab onto the railing and hoist himself up. We didn't even notice as it happened, just after the fact.

I used to work at the Macy's in Chicago in the Water Tower. It was a very small but tall store ( 8 stories) and I worked on 7. In the middle of the store were escalators all the way up. Due to weight, probably, they got narrower as you go. On my floor they were very narrow. The floor was set up so that each set of registers faced the escalators, and then behind the register was the actual department. I faced the up escalators. In the very beginning we were trained on escalator safety, and to be on the lookout for kids to were misbehaving, tourists wearing sandals, muslim women in abayas and burqas etc. There was a big red emergency stop button right on the face below the handrail. Of the many days I spent not 15 feet from that button I was very glad I only had to push it once, and the only casualty was a flip flop.
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:35 AM on February 23, 2017


I was in Barcelona with my parents when a pair of thieves tried a common gambit on my dad. The idea is one gets ahead of you on the escalator, one gets behind you, and the one ahead of you stops at the very top and trips you up so the guy behind you can swoop in and pick your pockets.

These guys were really obvious though and had been lurking significantly on the platform, waiting to get in position around us. And boy, were they surprised when the first guy bent over right at the top of the escalator to trip my dad, and instead my dad kicked him really hard in the ass and sent him flying. My dad stepped around the guy and stomped off, victorious.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:40 AM on February 23, 2017 [19 favorites]


I love Mitch Hedberg, and that joke, but the reason you were disappointed...

is also because it's in the OP
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:42 AM on February 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


I was never really afraid of escalators until reading this thread. THANKS METAFILTER.

My dad got caught in an escalator once when he was a kid, one of the old rickety ones with the wooden steps and long, wide teeth. I should send this thread to him.
posted by slogger at 6:48 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Relatives of mind lived in Brazil in the 1950s when escalators were first introduced into public buildings.

The building managers had to turn off the power because people refused to get on moving steps. Not natural, you see.
posted by BWA at 6:50 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


The math building at my college had a terrible escalator traffic flow. The first 3 floors of the building were only accessible by escalator or stairs, unless you had a handicapped key for the elevator. One side of the building had the classrooms and the other side had the offices. The escalators were the first things available when the students came out of class, with the stairs being on the opposite end of the building. So when all the classes let out, you would have a couple hundred students trying to use the escalators, which caused massive buildups. You could tell who was familiar with the building because they would sweep out to the side once they got off and all the newbies would just stand in the build-up. I was really surprised that in all my years, I never witnessed some kind of accident from that poor design.

Re: broken escalators = stairs
I have been many places where you are not allowed to use the escalators as stairs and they even had guards posted to watch. Those places would also not let you walk up the escalator when it was working. You just had to stand for the whole ride.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:55 AM on February 23, 2017


I was on one of those long DC escalators once going down during rush hour, and at the bottom, a young-ish man got off right in front of me and stopped dead in the center, looking around. Knowing that there were about 200 people right behind me, I shoved the poor guy forward and to the side to get him out of my/their way. I held onto him so he wouldn't fall, but I shoved him pretty hard. He was understandably upset and sort of turned and looked at me -- I just pointed up and said something like "you were about to cause a pileup," and he nodded and walked away. I'm a middle aged cis-woman, so that probably took the edge off things, but in retrospect, I feel lucky I didn't get punched in the face.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2017


I was charmed by the MBTA wood escalator (link not the specific instance) that were quite narrow and rounded. Replaced a few years ago.

Oh and a couple times I've been on a very crowed escalator that clunks to a halt, the absolute unison of the crowd simultaneously taking the first step is quite zen.
posted by sammyo at 7:03 AM on February 23, 2017


I don't even want to count how many separate times I was hurt on this particular device, though while it resembles an escalator in shape, it's single panel means it's more of an elevator.
posted by mystyk at 7:27 AM on February 23, 2017


I was looking into investing in a company that puts ads on the handrails of escalators. I cannot tell you the amount of regulation, national, state and local around escalators. To me, it is a wonder they are ever built and installed knowing the hoops these companies jump through. The regulations are actually a good effort to protect the public, but the amount are almost by definition fact that the public needs protecting from these beastly machines.
posted by AugustWest at 7:38 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


All this talk about escalator accidents brings back very bad memories of an awful indecent that happened about 15 years ago. A power outage hit one of the US Senate office buildings in DC. Then Senator Little Ricky Santorum was riding an escalator when the outage hit. He was trapped for over 6 hours. The live TV coverage was very hard to watch, especially when they tried to get food and water to Sen. Santorum. The image of the Senator's family shouting encouragement will always be remembered.
posted by james33 at 7:56 AM on February 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Everyone's read "Descending," right?
posted by Iridic at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


Only marginally related: I'm re-reading the Harry Potter books and every time they mention the moving spiral staircase leading to Dumbledore's office I try to think how that could possibly work and then have to just tell myself "yeahhh - magic."

I read a lot when I'm half-asleep.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:27 AM on February 23, 2017


When she was a kid, my mother somehow got her hand stuck in the the arm-rest of an escalator. She had to break her arm to get it out.

She told me that story probably 30+ years ago. The specter of getting my hand caught and then sucked into the stygian abyss beneath an escalator has hung over my life ever since. For the last three decades of my life I have stood perfectly still and carefully not touched the arm-rest of any escalator I have had the misfortune of being on.

If it was a made-up story intended to scare 8-year-old me straight regarding escalator safety, it sure as heck worked.
posted by Byzantine at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


As a young man I worked in maintenance in a three-floor department store. My primary task was to change burned-out light bulbs in the wee hours before opening. The ones above and around the escalators were particularly treacherous.

There were some lights on the undersides of the escalators, in old, recessed fixtures. I had to put a wooden box on one step of the escalator below, which allowed me to put my ten-foot ladder on there. The escalator wasn't wide enough to allow the ladder to fully open. So, on occasion, I had to stand on backwards-sloping rungs, with a two-story drop behind me, trying to pry an old, persnickety recessed light housing open. All while worrying that some bleary-eyed co-worker would start the escalators while I'm on there.

Somehow worse, though objectively slightly safer, was servicing the the ring of lights around the top of the escalator area. I had to put the ladder right next to the railing, and lean out over the three story escalator pit to unscrew the bulb. When the escalators were on, the motion in the periphery amplified the vertigo in a most disagreeable way.

I'm not dead though.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 8:42 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


randomkeystrike, spiral escalators are indeed a thing.
posted by FritoKAL at 8:44 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


My late father ran the humanities desk at Seattle Public LIbrary when I was young. It was positioned just below the escalators up to the business&technical wing, and children's was on the floor above that.

He refused to let me wear sandals in the library. When I was older, he said there was a special kind of scream children made when their toes were shredded up by the bottom of the escalator.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 8:49 AM on February 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


By the way I live in London now, which finally got rid of wooden escalators in reaction to the 1987 King's Cross Fire.

The emergency stops are placed regularly along the length of the escalators. If you ask anyone about them, the only phrase that comes to mind is "PENALTY FOR IMPROPER USE"
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 8:55 AM on February 23, 2017


Escalators are why I firmly believe that we need to paint "red zones" into pedestrian traffic flow areas and enforce an "if you are physically able, you must NOT stop in the red zone" rule. Other red zones include doorways, door swings, directly inside or outside of doorways and security gates, the top and bottom of stairs, and the curb cut of the sidewalk. You would think these rules would be understood, but apparently they aren't.

My most terrifying escalator incident was when a person in front of me lost control of her giant rolling bag, and it shot down one of the very long escalators in the Embarcadero BART and almost hit someone. Then I understood why the sign says "no rolling luggage or baby carriages."
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:58 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I guess having a lot of exposures to escalators would help? Regular DC Metro riders treat the escalators at the stations and around town like something they grew up with. Most don't even look up from their phone as they stand/walk/sprint up and down. Then during tourist seasons there's inevitably the nervous nellies taking their time getting on and off the escalators and slow the commuters down. Maybe there should be a training escalator in every small town just to reduce these accidents. (I'm half joking, but it could work!)
posted by numaner at 9:02 AM on February 23, 2017


> I was charmed by the MBTA wood escalator (link not the specific instance) that were quite narrow and rounded. Replaced a few years ago.

I liked them too, but turns out they were a horrific fire hazard.(London 1987, 31 fatalities. Somehow I'd misremembered that as Boston. An article from 1991 reports 8 wooden escalators still in use in the MBTA system, so they didn't rip them all out immediately, but this comment from 2011 suggests they're finally gone).
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 9:10 AM on February 23, 2017


I mean, as someone who used to ride BART daily, I feel like escalators are just a bad investment. They're always broken-- I swear I had to backtrack an extra block for fully 7 of the 8 years I lived in San Francisco and wanted to visit the Civic Center library, solely due to the constantly broken escalator at that exit.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2017


> The danger of escalators comes from malfunctions and the occasional foot or article of clothing getting wedged in the escalator.

Well, that and the fact that they have frickin TEETH
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:16 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I mean people basically never die, or even suffer minor injuries in elevators...

Correct. Except when they drown. (Warning: this story will end all of your "worst ways to die" competitions forever.)
posted by The Bellman at 9:34 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


They still have the old wooden escalators at the original Macy's
posted by Mchelly at 9:41 AM on February 23, 2017


Well, fine, but there's a reason why Einstein didn't use escalators as the basis for his gedanken experiments in free-fall dynamics.
posted by ubiquity at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was headed down to, I think, Grand Central Station late one night when I saw a man at the bottom of the escalator on his hands and knees. When I got to the bottom I saw that his pant legs were being slowly pulled into the mechanism. There was also blood from a cut on his forehead. I took out my pocket knife and cut the pant legs off. Then I walked him to the nearest police officer. I'm thinking it was less of a monster escalator issue and more of a hem your damn pants issue, but still.
posted by Splunge at 10:00 AM on February 23, 2017


mystyk: "I don't even want to count how many separate times I was hurt on this particular device , though while it resembles an escalator in shape, it's single panel means it's more of an elevator."

I say now, and will continue to say, that, in games, any location with one of those open angled elevators is a place where bad things have happened, will happen, and will always happen. There's no good reason for one of those and there never will be.
posted by Samizdata at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2017


Well, I came here to post about the King's Cross fire and "Descending", so I guess I will just be quiet at this point.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I worked for the organization in Ontario that is responsible for inspecting and certifying all of the elevators and escalators (and other things through other depts) in that province. Nothing more terrifying than the "safety moment" videos the CEO would show us. Riding along on inspections of elevators gave me a whole new perspective, as in, "How on earth have I always just trusted these scary boxes?"
posted by routergirl at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


From the photos it looks like if we satiate the hunger of these escalators with the occasional converse everyone involved will be better off.
posted by Quack at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't know what it is - I must have seen somebody do it in a movie once during my formative years or something - but there's just something about an escalator that gives me the uncontrollable urge to tap dance on it.

I manage to keep it under control when there are other people on, because I don't want to scare anyone or cause a pile up or an accident. But the last time I was in the Las Vegas Airport, it was just my sister and me on this huge, four-story job. I'd been up all night, and I was hopped up on painkillers and coffee, so I stood my carryon two steps below me and timestepped all the way up that sucker. My sister is pale to begin with, but she was a horrible shade of gray when I got to the top.

She reminded me of the time when we were four and five, and the little old lady next door had gotten her shoe caught on the wooden escalator at Rothschild's, fallen, and gotten all bruised and cut up. I told her that's why I needed to get it out of my system when I was young.

Nowadays, the best I can manage is a little shuffle ball change.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:02 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


We were in a mall in Bali last year and came to a set of escalators that were turned off, so we walked up the right-hand one, Mrs. Wallflower trailing a few yards behind as is her wont. Just as I stepped onto the upper landing the escalator lurched into motion—going down. Mrs. W. began climbing as fast as her tiny legs could move but was basically running in place, so I yelled at her to just ride it down. Meanwhile, an amused local watched until she was safely down and then took his turn. It was then that I noticed the escalators had sensors that activated them when someone crossed the landing. At that point I also remembered that they drive on the left in Indonesia. Mrs. W. stepped onto the actual up escalator and was borne to the top without further incident.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:33 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]




Ending this thread with the Obligatory XKCD reference
posted by TDIpod at 1:03 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Came in here to mention the Porter Square Station escalator in Cambridge, MA. For a while I rode it daily (when it wasn't broken and I huffed and puffed up and down the stairs), and once witnessed a man falling down the last bits of it. He was already being helped by the time I rode down to him, but I will never forgot the bloody escalator prints on his face.

I was on this escalator again when it stopped suddenly with a lurch strong enough to knock people down. Luckily most had a good grip on the railing and were able to provide support to those who lost their balance. As per usual with people from the Northeast, we all just grumbled and started walking down the new stairs.
posted by Constant Reader at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2017


I actually assumed this would be pics of super-steep, long, escalators underground, which give you the marvelous feeling of claustrophobia and acrophobia at the same time. I hate those things.

I was not expecting gnawed shoes. Since there's no blood, I'm going to pretend these shoes all fell off, and no feet were actually hurt. lalalalala
posted by emjaybee at 1:28 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Some of the escalators in the DC Metro system are mind-blowing in their height/length. The one at Foggy Bottom comes to mind, but I'm sure there are other, longer ones: Here's a picture of it.

The Foggy Bottom escalators aren't very tall (I went to grad school at GWU/Foggy Bottom and routinely took the stairs instead of the escalator), and that's a picture of the Wheaton Metro escalator, which is a stunning 230' tall.

The two crazy tall ones that always struck me were Bethesda (212') and Woodley Park (204'), especially back when the latter didn't have a rain cover. The north entrance to Dupont's pretty crazy, too.

10 tallest DC Metro escalators.

posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:30 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


A schooner is a sailboat, stupidhead.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:47 PM on February 23, 2017


There was one horrific exception to this in New York a few years ago at an ad agency

I should probably have noted the exceptions that are pre-1940s elevators and the other one for shitty freight elevators used for passenger traffic. The former at least are protected against the main failure mode people worry about, which is falling to their doom, but early elevators, especially those originally designed to have operators, do have door issues.

That said, the 2011 NYC accident you linked is also basically the only way modern elevators kill people, but when they go wrong there are obvious signs it is broken, like the door opening away from a landing. If you stay inside and call for help such that the elevator is shut down before disembarking if something like that happens, you'll be safer than sitting in a chair.

Easier said than done if one has claustrophobia or some other disorder that makes elevators hard to deal with, I know.

The biggest red flag is elevators that are often broken down but are "repaired" within very short order. Unless your building has a qualified technician on site, regular outages that only last a few minutes to an hour is a pretty decent sign someone is bypassing "broken" safety mechanisms to get the thing running again. In smaller cities, there may well not be someone who can legitimately repair an elevator less than a couple of hours away. Luckily, there are people closer by who are qualified to make sure it is safe to get you out closer at hand, but not so much when it comes to fully repairing them.
posted by wierdo at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Here's a comparison of escalators and elevators

Escalators and elevators are mechanically similar, but if you're an elevator mechanic you actually need special training and a special license to work on them BECAUSE THEY'RE THAT MUCH MORE LETHAL.

source: married to an elevator/escalator guy who likes to talk
posted by scratch at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Riding along on inspections of elevators gave me a whole new perspective, as in, "How on earth have I always just trusted these scary boxes?"

And that they're straight up murder machines for those not riding in them, but working on them or around them. If you thought there were lots of places on an escalator to get clothes/hair/appendages caught, try a 1960s vintage elevator penthouse, which include an extra helping of exposed meat cooking implements for any foolish enough to get too close. There's a reason many states make it illegal to colocate equipment in them, despite otherwise being fantastic places to put wireless network backhaul gear.

Totally fascinating to watch an old relay-based controller in action, but may luck be with you if you get near the rotary converters with loose pant legs.
posted by wierdo at 3:38 PM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


For killer between-floors transport, have you ever seen the escalator/elevator hybrid called a Paternoster? Talk about opportuniies for amputation!
posted by Rash at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


My fear with escalators is that they will suddenly slip and zip down, not brake to become stairs.
posted by freethefeet at 4:04 PM on February 23, 2017


Escalator talk always inspires DC Metro riders -- yeah, we have some long ones. Great image you paint, instead of three wishes -- the Sisyphus Commuters, trudging ever upward on their escalator to nowhere. But those are long, or tall escalators, no steeper than any other. An actual steep escalator, like the stairway in an old house in Amsterdam, that I'd like to see.

When she was a kid, my mother somehow got her hand stuck in the the arm-rest of an escalator. She had to break her arm to get it out.

Byzantine, I know the kind! A department store at Ballston Metro (in Arlington) still had these in the mid-1990s, the only I've ever seen. Instead of the standard flat, hard rubber it had these weird rumbling, corrugated, circular-cross-section handrests, kinda like the flexible exhaust from a clothes dryer. And at the end, instead of curling around down to floor level like normal, it abruptly entered a rubber fringed hole -- you had to let go before you stepped off, jerking your hand away before or who knows what would happen. And now I know. Sheesh!

Too bad, rum-soaked space hobo -- I loved those old wooden escalator treads, like in the London underground! But I'm sure the replacement's still superior to our stateside models. Something less-traveled DC Metro riders and others may not realize, but American escalators are painfully slow -- I've always thought, to accommodate timid riders. Escalators elsewhere, like in Europe, run much faster. (The best I've ridden were in Budapest.) And I've heard that those in the Moscow subway are not only the longest, but the fastest of all.

Let's end this lengthy comment with Escalator Over the Hill by Carla Bley, a 3LP set from 1971 (with Linda Ronstadt).
posted by Rash at 4:05 PM on February 23, 2017


I must have seen somebody do it in a movie once during my formative years or something

My formative years, not to mention escalator-dancing tendencies, came long before the Fatboy Slim/Walken video, masterpiece that it is.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:05 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Rash, the paternoster is the worst idea for a building I've ever seen. I absolutely must go see one in person and ride the ride!

(it wouldn't be terrible in a object-mover/dumbwaiter way, but as a people mover it's the worst idea I've ever heard.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:20 AM on February 24, 2017


Me too me too, I really really want to ride a paternoster.

I do wonder about the accident rate differential, sometimes an understood obvious hazard is taken more seriously and in a sense safer.
posted by sammyo at 10:49 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


My formative years, not to mention escalator-dancing tendencies, came long before the Fatboy Slim/Walken video, masterpiece that it is.

I was not trying to make assumptions about your formative years timeline! My formative years were also long before than Fatboy Slim video but I am frequently reminded that we have quite a range of ages here. I actually looked for a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly clip on an escalator first, but Christopher Walken's was the only escalator dance I could actually remember or find.

I never tap danced but as a kid I used to pull my toes up at the end of the escalator in an attempt to slide/shoot off onto the landing.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


We used to make escalators out of wood. They were wonderful; I remember the ones at B. Altman's so specifically. Why don't we do this anymore? There was so much less mangling.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:41 PM on February 24, 2017


Some of the escalators in the DC Metro system are mind-blowing in their height/length.

So on my one visit to DC Mrs. Bringer and I wanted to visit the National Zoo. So we took the metro to Woodley Park and stopped in our tracks when we beheld the escalator. Cue Wikipedia...
With a vertical rise of 102 feet, the entrance escalators at Woodley Park are the longest in the District of Columbia and the third longest on the Metrorail system (behind Wheaton and Bethesda).
We looked at each other and simultaneously, very literally, said "I don't think so." So we poked around and some distance away found the elevator. Its pillbox-like car seemed to have been sized to accommodate exactly one wheelchair with a thin pusher. It was claustrophobic even carrying only two married people. The top also turned out to be a surprising distance from the subway entrance, not surprising since the TEN STORY TALL escalator probably went even further horizontally, while the elevator went straight up.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2017


FWIW, Metro elevators tend to go out a lot. I wouldn't use them if I had an alternative.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2017


>"Came for the Mitch Hedberg quote and was disappointed. So here it is:

"An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.""

>"All this talk about escalator accidents brings back very bad memories of an awful indecent that happened about 15 years ago. A power outage hit one of the US Senate office buildings in DC. Then Senator Little Ricky Santorum was riding an escalator when the outage hit. He was trapped for over 6 hours. The live TV coverage was very hard to watch, especially when they tried to get food and water to Sen. Santorum. The image of the Senator's family shouting encouragement will always be remembered."
I totally see why this is funny, but it kind of irks me. With my mobility impairment escalators can absolutely be broken for me and they vey much do not become stairs to me. There are minimum ADA requirements for all sorts of aspects of stairs to make them maximally accessible to people like me, like how high they can rise and how deep they must be, and escalators are hilariously far from meeting those standards. This means that, were I to get stuck on an escalator at the end of a long day, I honestly could end up needing to be rescued by at least kind passerby helping me towards which way fucks me the least. I could easily need to be carried, very carefully, off of the beasts in the DC Metro.

I mean, I get that y'all only have able bodied and lazy people in mind and aren't meaning to poke fun at the mobility impaired, but all of the actually conceivable reasons why Santorum could hypothetically be trapped on an escalator are really not funny.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:32 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


And for Pete's sake, take the baby out of the stroller, carry the baby, and fold the stroller if possible. If I'm behind you, I will help you carry the stroller. I saw this very nearly go very badly at Walt Disney World once.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:02 PM on February 25, 2017


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