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Monday, May 17, 2004

Stand on the right

So it's not just a London thing

Many thanks to Jane Perrone who writes for
The Guardian's blog and also has her own excellent gardening blog for emailing me about the www.standtotheright.com website.

The guy who runs this site had got in touch with me some time ago but it was one of those emails or guestbook entries which floated into my Bermuda triangle file and never re-surfaced.

Basically, on the Washington Metro ordinary commuters are just as hacked off as us Londoners when it comes to tourists or out-of-towners or people with a death wish who insist on standing on the left on escalators.

Today The Washington Post (you may need to register to read the article) picked up on the site with its Cafepress T shirts and be-moaned the fact that tourists are the worst offenders of this cardinal sin:

"The train is right there and you see the doors closing and it's like, 'Get out of my way!'" said Shain, a behavioural and social researcher who missed that train by seconds.

Then, a moment of empathy. "A lot of the people who visit here come here from Middle America where there is no subway, so they're not used to it," said Shain, who grew up in Kentucky. "You have to just expect that if you live in this city. You have to deal with the tourists."

Fougasse's Stand on the Right London Underground poster from 1944


It was annoying in the forties with the sign above, it's annoying now. But at least we have loads of signs on the Tube whereas some big wig in Washington decided to get them removed:

"Years ago, Metro bolted small metal "Stand to Right" plaques to some escalators but then removed them, concerned that the message was an implicit endorsement of walking, something the transit system officially condemns. "We advocate that people do not walk, for safety reasons," said Goodine (an assistant general manager for system safety and risk protection - snappy job title), adding that escalators are the place where most injuries occur inside Metro stations. Escalator injuries are declining but are still a major concern, he said.

"Unfortunately, we have this practice, and it's universal," Goodine said. "What are we going to do? Post a pedestrian traffic cop at every escalator? We have to come up with a way to address this, but right now our policy is, to ensure maximum safety, stand, don't run or walk, on the escalators."

I don't know how many injuries there have been with people "walking" up or down escalators on the tube, so it seems weird condoning walking - specially at the moment there's some ads on the Tube by the British Heart Foundation, actually encouraging people to walk up or down escaltors cos it's healthier. Ahh, those people across the pond - what are we going to do with them?


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