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Monday, August 31, 2015

Japan Takes A Stand On Escalators

I'm one of those people who have thought that when on an escalator, if you want to go up it and just stand there, it should be done on the right side, allowing free rein for those who want to walk up on the left.

It differs from country to country, of course, but here in Canada it's as it is above. I applauded it. But in 2007, signs stating how to use the escalators depicting those rules were removed from the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway lines...

But in Japan... there has never been such 'rules'.

Until now, and even so, it's not what I expected.

Japan surprised me with logic.

Train operators in Japan - some 51 of them - and airport operators, have banded together to support a 'no-walk' campaign - in other words, "Do not walk. Stand on either side."

My first reaction was effing Japan... get with the times... and then, there was this comment by the Japan Elevator Association (I suppose it has its ups and downs) who must also have members who look after escalators:

"It’s not necessary to leave one side open. There are some people who have an arm or a hand that is incapable of functioning and have difficulty keeping a specific side open."

Damn... I never thought about that... a weakness in one arm would not allow them to safely grab a hold of the railings... that's brilliant and causes me to change my entire opinion on escalator etiquette.

No other explanation is necessary. Even those train and airport operators came up with numbers:

"The number of accidents decreases during the campaign period but the practice of keeping one side open is strongly rooted," says a public relations official at East Japan Railway Co. "We’d like to positively appeal to people to change the practice."

The Japan campaign also wants people to leave one entire step open behind the person in front... which actually just seems like common sense to me, but my observations show that it isn't the case at all.

People bunch up. More so in 'rush hour' but even when it's not and it's just at a shopping mall.

I'm never in such a rush, however, that I get upset at people who stand on the 'wrong' side of an escalator - unless it's because they are there to talk to someone beside them. Then it's get out of the way!

It's not even for me... I'm never in a rush. But I suppose that's just me. Maybe if I was going to meet someone for coffee, I might be anxious and in a rush - you never want to be late when trying to impress, but really... I'm pretty easy-going.

But yeah... I can dig it... not everyone likes escalators... I've seen people struggle to take that initial step onto one... and almost fall off at the top when they arrive... a complete lack of coordination not limited to the very young, elderly or infirmed. I've seen able-bodied adults panic at escalators. Must be a vertigo thing or whatever... but still, it's their right to be allowed to figure it out.

My ONLY complaint about escalator etiquette, however, are those people who get off at the top or bottom and then just stand there determining where they should go next.

I'm officially the size of a sumo wrestler (a very small one) according to the minimums of the sport... but do you really want me sliding into your back? Get out of the way... stand to the side of the area and then figure out where you need to go.

Anyhow... Japan is kindda screwed up when it comes to standing/walking on escalators. There's a rhythm to it, but it varies from city to city.

In Tokyo, people stand to the left and let others pass on the right; in Osaka, they tend to stay on the right and let walkers pass on the left.

Around the world, however, most countries, if they favor a side, seem to prefer standing on the right and walking on the left. Australia is an exception, because they live upside down.

In the United Kingdom - perhaps in England where it was the first country to have a 'rule' for standing and walking on escalators in its ancient Underground subway system - its escalators originally had a diagonal step-off point clearly meant for the right foot first, so standing on the right made sense. I suppose.

Does it matter? It seems like such a weenie thing to be concerned about.

But yes... in Japan at least, there are some numbers to back up the concerns.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency of Japan, that 3,865 people in Tokyo - just Tokyo - needed hospital care for injuries suffered on escalators between 2011 through 2013.

I wonder how many of those injuries were because of slippage, or sudden stops caused by the STOP button being pressed... I would imagine most injuries occur when clothing (long dresses, scarves, unhemmed pants, etc.) gets stuck in the teeth of the escalator steps...

Whatever the case... there aren't any hard-fast rules regarding standing or walking on escalators - at least not anymore.

My advice would be, if you aren't in a hurry and are, like me, not the type to touch a handrail (effing disgustingly rife with god knows what filth) because you have good balance, pick a side to stand and allow others who are in more of a rush to get by.

Oh... and for goodness sake, leave a step open in front of allows you to get that foot down to enable you to walk off easier.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above found at you'll notice in this scene from a Roppongi Hills, Tokyo mall that everyone seems to have the system correct - except one woman who is looking around on the right-hand side escalator... but maybe she has a weak left hand.

1 comment:

  1. I have a massive and not completely irrational fear of escalators. When I was wee, one of my rubber boots got caught in the side of one and started sucking down my foot. Much hysteria ensured, my mom screamed that they shut it off, and my foot got yanked out before any real harm. Safe and sound... still hate 'em!

    - Alice