DC Mythbusting: Stand to the Right!
‘Stand on the right?’
courtesy of ‘karthikkito’
It’s probably the number one gripe about tourists: they stand on both
sides of the escalators on Metro, blocking the left side that is
generally understood to be for walking. We Washingtonians understand
that you stand to the right and walk on the left– there are even Facebook groups and t-shirts supporting the concept–
but there are no formal signs on or near the escalators that say so.
Why not? Rumors range from the theory that having people walk on one
side and stand on the other leads to an unequal balance of weight and
causes escalators to break down more frequently, or the theory that
Metro doesn’t want to formally endorse a ‘stand right/walk left’ policy
for liability and safety reasons. But what’s the real reason there
aren’t signs telling tourists to stand to the right?
It’s complicated. WMATA Spokesperson Ron Holzer says that Metro
recommends that all “riders stand and hold the hand rail as the safest
way to go up and down and enjoy the ride”, as this is what escalators
were meant to do. Escalator steps weren’t intended for walking, and
they are taller than typical stairs, which increases the risk of
tripping or being injured. Mr. Holzer says simply, “People shouldn’t
walk on moving escalators.” That gives us Reason #1: It’s safer to stand still on escalators.
‘i have an escalator problem.’
courtesy of ‘volcanojw’
That being said, Metro has unofficially endorsed the ‘stand right/walk left’ philosophy. They posted signs about “escalefters” back in 2006 and ran announcements saying “You’ll notice that most people stand on the right side” of escalators starting in 2007.
But why haven’t they posted simple signs on the escalators themselves?
Wouldn’t that be the easiest way to clue visitors in to the unofficial
Yes, but don’t hold your breath for ‘stand right/walk left’ signs to pop up on escalators anytime soon. Despite the fact that Dan Tangherlini supported the idea of signs in June 2006, and Metro said they were working with local jurisdictions to post the signs in May 2006, they still haven’t appeared in stations. And that’s because of Reason #2: Signs on escalators violate US safety codes. According to the Washington Post,
“the national safety code for elevators and escalators does not allow
non-cautionary signs to be posted within 10 feet of an escalator.”
courtesy of ‘kendrickhang’
Since there will be no official signs coming anytime soon, what’s the
best way to inform tourists about this DC custom? Let’s say your train
is pulling into the station, but tourists who don’t know any better are
blocking your way down the escalator to catch that train. In this case,
it’s probably ok to politely say “excuse me” and inch around them. And
maybe it’s alright to mention to a chaperon of 20 escalefting children
that it’s customary to stand to the right and walk on the left of Metro
escalators. But really, we should probably all stop being so Type-A
about this and relax– the tourists don’t know they’re doing anything
wrong, and Metro can’t post signs about the issue. So your choices are
to politely mention the ‘stand right/walk left’ philosophy to
escalefting tourists (and risk being seen as an impatient big-city
jackass), or just relax and enjoy the ride.