Walking on escalators should not be allowed

From ‘Don’t overburden escalators by walking on them’, 21 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Gan Kok Tiong): Escalators in MRT stations should not be functioning like staircases.

The main issue is that those doing so are overburdening the escalators.

Also, commuters who are right-handed will then be able to hold on to the railings on the right without having to move to the left to make way for those wishing to “walk” on the escalators.

Disallowing people from walking on the escalators will lead to normal usage of the machines, which would help in reducing the frequency of breakdowns.

Perhaps a professor of physics could answer the age-old question of what’s the best way to move people along an escalator. But in the absence of actual escalator studies, we’ll just have to settle for the wisdom of SMRT spokespeople. In 2001, SMRT in fact DISCOURAGED people from keeping to the left, as this would leave the right side underutilised and reducing rider capacity. Walking up an escalator was also deemed a safety hazard, especially when you’re on fast moving rides, though the worst thing anyone could do while on an escalator, whether they’re on the left, right, standing or walking, is to wear goddamn CROCS.

SMRT has changed their tune since. Today MRT signs remind you to keep to the left and allow others to pass. Keeping to one side of an escalator, analogous to responsible driving, remains a hallmark of a civilised society. We unwittingly teach our kids to do it and we growl at aunties for hogging the right lane when we’re in a rush. Unless there’s a drastic shift in commuter behaviour no one would want to stick out on the right side and face the wrath of a marauding escalator-walker. What SMRT needs is a lab, model escalators, and willing subjects to test the hypothesis that walking up and down an escalator on one side will eventually destroy it. But I guess they have other things to worry about, like managing mysterious signal faults for example.

Or, if you want to avoid having to deal with the ethics of escalator riding, have time and energy to spare, and not doing anything for the rest of the day beyond sitting on your arse in front of the office computer – take the stairs.


Children getting maimed by escalators

From ‘4-year-old’s hand torn after being pushed down MRT escalator’, 31 March 2012, article in asiaone.com

A four-year-old boy was pushed down the escalator at Ang Mo Kio MRT station, causing his left hand to get caught in the escalator and badly injuring it. The news first broke when Ms Visa Lee, who put up a Facebook post showing a photograph of the boy’s hand torn and bloody, called for help sharing the picture to locate witnesses for the accident.

According to reports, Lucas Xie was with his brother and maid going down the escalator when he was shoved from behind. He lost his footing and landed on his left hand, which subsequently got caught when the steps of the escalator went beneath the floor, The Straits Times reported.

Escalators are public limb-guillotines, things we take so often on a regular basis that we forget what lethal slice-and-dice contraptions these can turn out to be, epitomised by one of the more gruesome deaths from the Final Destination series.

No Crocs were harmed in this movie

A series of toe mutilations occurred in 2006-2008, with people pointing fingers at rubber footwear instead of negligence on the part of the parent or playfulness/carelessness by the child. But feet trappings were already happening before Crocs became popular; In 1985, canvas shoes and shoelaces were gobbled up by escalators, almost dragging their wearers with them. Handrails, designed as a safety feature, have ironically claimed the hands of a few as well, with cleaners getting theirs stuck in the line of duty. Kids have gotten stranded while hanging on handrails on the outer side of up-escalators, or landed themselves in critical condition after monkeying around trying to climb over them. Even holding on to handrails too tightly may get you keeling over if they stop suddenly, as what happened to 4 elderly women in Punggol Plaza last year. Hands and feet aside, you could also get your HEAD stuck between escalator and wall if you’re leaning over the handrails staring at the basement below (Boy’s head stuck between escalator and wall, 19 Aug 1997, ST)

What about DEATH by escalator? In 1993, a housewife died after falling and hitting her head on an escalator in Jurong East MRT while attempting to retrieve something she dropped (MRT station death accident, 13 April 1993). A year later,  an 11 year old boy fell 3 storeys to his death off an escalator (Misadventure ruling on boy who fell off escalator, 17 Sept 1994, ST). Even if you paid extra caution to avoid those deadly gaps and teeth on escalators, there’s a chance you might perish in a freak fire still, as what happened to an escalator in Ang Mo Kio Hub in 2010. An overloaded escalator may also spell your demise, with commuters tumbling like dominoes during rush hour at Boon Lay MRT station. In 2003, 20 people were injured, including a pregnant lady, when the escalator at City Hall MRT suddenly REVERSED (Sprocket to blame, 29 May 2003, Today), an event captured in an unfortunate analogy used by then DPM Lee Hsien Loong to Pre-U students on the topic of education and career.

…We are no longer riding on an escalator, which you step onto by attaining a degree, and after that the only way is up..Once in a while the escalator stops suddenly and MOVES BACKWARDS (Pursue your passions, 4 June 2003, Today)

A similar incident happened at Bugis MRT one year later (Commuters tumble down escalator, 16 Nov 2004, ST). You could even get hurt on horizontal TRAVELLATORS; according to a Today contributor, a young boy was ‘knocked off his feet’ by rushing commuters at Dhoby Ghaut station in 2005.

If not maiming body parts or falling off them, you could also have your modesty outraged on an escalator, with dirty old men sneaking mobile phones on ‘record’ mode beneath women’s skirts. Of course, any pervert getting his kicks filming upskirts on something as dangerous as an escalator is asking for it if caught in the act by a furious victim more than willing to offer the hungry metallic beast an appendage to chomp on.

Stop the use of escalators

From Untitled 27 November 1973 Letters to ST

It is sad to see elevators and escalators being put into use simultaneously in many shopping centres.

I suggest that the use of escalators be stopped. It would be a good form of exercise. Older people and those with less energy could use the lifts.

Oh if only someone had listened to “Lisa”, then we wouldn’t have to worry about obesity and cardiovascular diseases today.