Thursday, January 18, 2007

Walk Left Stand Right... where are you old friend?

I remember when my family first moved to Toronto when I was 13 and my dad told (who'd lived in the city before) told me that when I was riding the escalator on the TTC, I should walk on the left, and stand on the right. He said they even had signs on the escalators suggesting this. I'm a walker, so I stuck to the left. If I felt like standing, I'd stand on the right. Mostly though, I'd race up the stairs on the left, and I still do.

Whenever someone decided to stand with their friend on the left, blocking me from walking up, I'd passive-aggressively look at the sign, hoping they'd notice and move over. I think the social pressure the sign created prompted a lot of people to start walking or move over. It was a simple way to keep pedestrian traffic in the stations moving.

So, the other day, when someone was standing in my way, I looked over at the sign, but I couldn't find it. I thought it was maybe just that station, but I checked others, and couldn't find them anywhere. And then I looked closer, and I saw this:

A large, rectangular scar where the sign used to be. Every station I checked, it was the same deal:

I'm guessing the removal of the signs had something to do with an escalator pile-up that happened last year, causing some injuries. The TTC subsequently had a small campaign about escalator safety, espousing tips about holding on to the handrail, and not shoving past people. The suggestion to “walk left stand right” was conspicuously absent. It was probably thought that for the sake of safety, they shouldn't be encouraging people to rush up the escalators. While I can appreciate the sentiment, I don't think that people walking up the left side was causing any accidents, or even causing people to shove past people. Besides, the accident wasn't even caused by shoving or running – it was caused by the escalator suddenly speeding up.

These signs aren't just a great way to keep people moving, they're also fairly beloved part of our TTC. The Toronto blog torontoist made some TTC tee-shirt designs, and the 'walk left stand right' tee-shirt was one of the most popular. Several travel sites mention the signs as an amusing quirk. Say the phrase to anyone in the city and they'll smile in recognition.

It's too bad that it's been lost due to bureaucratic short-sightedness.

PS This is a bit of an aside, but something that really bothers me is when people stop walking when they get to the top of the escalator. It won't suck you in. And you're forcing everyone else to stop too. I know it's a comfort thing, but it's not dangerous to keep walking.


Anonymous said...

do you think they may be putting in a sign with icons instead of words for non english speakers?

Tom(mertron) said...

You'd think that if they were going to, they would remove the signs at the same time they were putting the new signs up. Of course, it is the TTC, so expecting them to be logical a stretch.