Where to stand on the escalator?

Walk left, Stand right.

Those were the instructions given for riding escalators in Bangkok. And if I recall correctly, most parts of the world. But it is the opposite in Singapore, which annoys me because I have a habit of standing on the right that infuriates fellow passengers, especially during rush hour. Hah.

So who is right? We typically follow the British system of things, like driving on the “wrong” side of the road for instance. But not for riding the escalator. There is no logical explanation just yet.

But I came across a book “A Curious Guide to London” written by Simon Leyland that chronicles the fascinating tales and anecdotes of various sights in London that hoped to inspire the reader to look at the city in new light.  In it, was one on escalator etiquette.

In 1910, the tube introduced its first escalator at Earl’s Court Station. At that point in history, it appeared that other countries have had escalators installed and the common etiquette was to Stand left, Walk right. (So we were doing it right the whole time? Under the ambit of Best Practices, I suppose.)

But like driving, London had to do it the other way round. Though it had a legitimate reason for doing so: In the olden days, shunt escalators ended in a diagonal such that the stairway ended earlier for the right foot. And so passengers who chose to walk, could approach from the left side and take advantage of the extra space at the end to overtake passengers standing on the right.

Overtaking? Sounds like a race. I looked up shunt escalators, and it does look like it makes for rather awkward disembarkation. Hence the need for overtaking and some calculated walking so one does not fall over another.


So why London did it in 1910 was clear, and the etiquette stayed till this day. But I am curious why it was common practice in the other parts of the world to Stand left, Walk right instead? Did that eventually change or am I being obstinate?


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