We’ve all been there. Rushing to catch that last train, looking to rush down and escalator – but wait. Someone is standing in the walking lane. Great. Will you say something? That is indeed the question.
Escalator etiquette differs from country to country. Tokyo considered banning walking on escalators but it was never enforced. And in the UK, people of a certain age will remember the chilling public information films of the 1970’s that featured a pair of children’s blue wellington boots getting sucked into the machinery. “Stand still and don’t walk down,” it urged. Confusingly walking on the left is signposted in the UK nowadays and is adhered to by 90% of people according to a The University of Greenwich study in 2011.
In Toronto tension has been defused since the signs telling people to walk on the left were removed, says commuter Tom Robertson. “You can tell some people get a little annoyed when they are standing behind someone on the left but I’ve never seen anyone say anything about it. I think many people have forgotten about the signs.”
Conversely, Shanghai defeats all of these social norms, and it was measured that just 2.6% adhere to the stand right walk left custom, despite yellow lines being painted along the escalator steps. Additionally Australia turns the system on its head by walking right and standing left. In Wyoming it’s a non issue as there are only two escalators in the entire state.
So what is there to do to standardize this seemingly universal etiquette? You would be urgently but ever so politely be told to move aside in London, whereas in Shanghai more likely you would be pushed or elbowed in submission – whether you were in the way or not.
So what is the solution? There are walkers and standers as Michael Bloomberg Mayor of New York has said – he always walks on escalators. And since they study says walkers are the minority (25% in London, 3% in Shanghai), ultimately they shouldn’t get to dictate the rules – so the silent majority of standers prevails.
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Siobhan R.// SMC Editor