Stand right, walk left is the conventional escalator etiquette across America; and many riders find themselves frustrated when someone bucks with the norm. In Washington D.C., these riders even have a not-so-nice nickname: escalumps.
However, over the past few years, reports have emerged on why standing on both the right and the left of escalators makes for a faster and safer ride for everyone. This research not only generates a lot of debate, but also shines a spotlight on escalator longevity. Escalator companies have the opportunity to capitalize on these topical moments to ensure their clients really understand the product and what maintenance is needed to keep escalators working efficiently.
It’s faster for everyone
In late 2015, the London Underground conducted a test at Holborn Station. Much to riders’ horror, everyone who boarded the escalator during their morning commute for three straight weeks would have to stand on both sides. As the Guardian reported, some riders were peeved at having the option of walking taken away from them. Eventually the busy commuters adjusted to the situation, and the results of the test were in – and they were even better than predicted.
The London Transit Analysts found that during a regular week, 12,745 riders could board between 8:30-9:30 AM; but during the test in which riders stood on both sides, the escalator carried 16,220 people. That’s because when riders stand left, walk right, only a fraction actually walk up (especially on escalators that are a few stories tall). The University of Greenwich discovered in 2011 that only 25% of riders will walk. As such there is a bottleneck with more riders trying to board on the right side. If riders board on both sides and leave a step in between, more can get on the escalator, meaning the overall ride is faster for everyone.
It’s safer to stand
In the US, escalator injuries cause about 10,000 hospital visits per year according to research by the National Library of Medicine. It’s no surprise then that both Otis and Kone, two of the biggest escalator manufacturers, both advise riders stand rather than walk on escalators. Standing allows riders to hold the railing and pay attention to their surroundings. Additionally, by abandoning the walk left rule, those who have physical impairments restricting their right hand will have access to hold on with their left hand.
In 2015, 51 railway operators and airport-related companies launched a “no-walk” campaign in Japan to combat the escalator-related injuries caused by bumping into each other, tripping or falling. The campaign left little impact with many riders still ingrained in their usual routine, but changes may be on the horizon when the Paralympics takes place in Tokyo in 2020 and the city makes a renewed effort for rider safety.
It gets people thinking
In 2017, the General Manager of Washington’s Metro system, Paul Wiedefeld, encouraged riders not to walk on the left as escalators are “sensitive pieces of equipment” . According to NBC Washington, Wiedefeld was quick to modify his comments when Otis claimed he was incorrect. Maclean’s magazine also reported in 2017 on the Nanjing Metro in China, which said they found 95% of their escalators were damaged more significantly on the right side where people stood, but a Beijing Metro system spokesperson said proper maintenance would’ve prevented that.
What is clear from these comments is that escalator longevity is being pushed to the forefront with the review of this etiquette. As metros look at speed and safety, they also begun to evaluate and improve their current maintenance programs to keep escalators running smoothly. Although some of the comments may be a bit misguided, they are likely rooted in misunderstanding. Escalator companies should take advantage of these viral moments to ensure clients understand how the product works and what’s required to keep it working properly. Offering clients customized checklists with each maintenance visit or logging personalized recommendations for aftermarket sales are just a few ways our ERP system, Mobile Office Manager, could help you capitalize on situations like these with clients.
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