Wanted: better escalator manners

Because of accidents, East Japan Railway is asking commuters to stop walking or running up and down escalators. Serious accidents in the JR East area have reached 250 a year, or roughly one for every working day of the year. Many more accidents, however, go unreported. The increasing number of accidents inside train and subway stations has been attributed mainly to passengers walking or running on escalators.

Despite the fact that “Don’t walk” stickers have been placed near all 1,770 escalators at stations in the JR East area, most commuters seem unaware of the new request from JR East. The practice of lining up on the left side of escalators to allow people who want to walk to pass on the right is still widespread. Many people can be still seen rushing up and down escalators on the right side. This must be halted and the best way to do so would be to stop the practice of treating the right side as a “passing lane.” People should be encouraged to stand on both sides of the escalator.

Changing such an ingrained pattern of behavior will need more than small warning signs. It will also require combined effort, such as encouraging passengers to hold the handrails, something that Tokyo Metro does, although it has yet to join the ban on walking on escalators.

JR East and Tokyo Metro should also undertake comprehensive studies of the flow of commuters through stations. Many stations have improved the circulation of commuters on busy lines; however, other stations have added escalators and elevators that partially block platforms, causing greater congestion and slower movement. Banning walking on escalators also contributes to overcrowding during peak hours. People need to get off platforms and change trains in an efficient manner.

Commuters who are used to rushing should be aware that the new policy is intended to protect not only themselves but also the elderly, the handicapped and children, who are often bumped into or injured. The Tokyo habit of running for trains or racing through stations is one that needs to be changed. No one should be so late that they think it’s OK to put others at risk. Tokyo’s railway and subway system is already one of the most efficient in the world. Yet, for many commuters that is not enough; they still feel the need to run. Being late is a personal responsibility that should not create danger for others. Safety must come first.

Slowing down might also make commuters appreciate what a marvelous transportation system they have, and understand how their behavior is a large part of what also makes it so safe.

  • Mark Garrett

    If you weren’t supposed to walk up them then they wouldn’t have been made into stairs now would they? It would simply be a lift or elevator. While I agree that running up (or down) them is dangerous (and probably rude), it is simply ridiculous to think that everyone must stand still. I would bet that a vast majority of the accidents are caused by people either running or not following the “rules of the road” err “etiquette of the escalator”.

    Courtesy is a two way street. Be respectful and stay to the left if simply standing and I’ll be careful to pass you safely on the right. Try to make a point by blocking me and suffer the consequences.

  • Moonraker

    One problem is that if you have to make three or four connections then a two minute difference at the start might make half an hour’s difference at the end of your journey. This is a reality for many people every day.

    Also, there are so many people who are oblivious to what is going on around them – standing on the wrong side of escalators, stopping suddenly, bowing in groups on the platform, gazing at mobile phones, sorting in bags, etc, all in crowded areas. Announcements clearly don’t work because most are ignored or not noticed and just become more noise.

  • Devil Dude

    An infantile editorial decrying the woes of a non-existent “problem”. The number of truly important topics The Japan Times can rail against (government incompetence, discrimination and xenophobia in Japan, etc.), are legion. However, rather than cover real issues, JT has decided to waste both it and the reader’s time with calls for even more paternalistic Nanny-statist micro-management of the daily activities of people living in Japan; as if there isn’t enough of such non-sense already..!

  • 思德

    Perhaps they can implant chips in everyone’s brain stem that prevents them from running in certain areas.

  • Murasaki

    Because of hospital mistakes, I cannot walk up or down stairs, I need to use 2 crutches to walk and stand so when on a escalator I cannot be pushed up against the left to allow people to run up and down them. I have had people run pass me before and kick the crutches out from under me just about putting me on the deck. So now days I stand in the centre and people just have to wait, it is that simple, try and force your way past me then be prepaid to have a crutch wrapped around your head, because I do not wish to end up in hospital again because you lack manners.