Here's why ST forum letter about not walking on escalators may actually be a logical one

TL;DR walking on the escalator is wearing it out, and is also a potential safety hazard.

Guan Zhen Tan | December 21, 2016, 06:05 PM

We are pretty familiar with the onslaught of outrageous forum letters sent to The Straits Times.

However, a forum letter that received some traction on Dec. 21, and subsequently panned, might actually be, for once, quite logical.

In case you haven't seen it, ST's letter online is titled, "Don't overburden escalators by walking on them".

On hindsight, this sounds like yet another classic case of Singaporeans grumbling to the mainstream press for nothing.

Here's the entirety of the letter:

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.

Gan Kok Tiong

However, there's more than meets the eye. Here are three reasons why it actually makes more sense than you think.

1) Walking on one side of the escalator is actually wearing the escalator out. 

Trade publisher, Elevator World, which is a Publisher for the International Building Transport Industry, did state on their website that walking on one side does cause damage and problems to the escalator:

Authoritative policies and signage such as “Stand on the right” do not encourage uniform wear in the chains over the width of the machine, because one chain is subjected to a higher force and more wear than the other. The chains in the step band enable the steps to maintain safe and practical clearances between each other, and between the steps and skirting.

Furthermore, last year, a former engineer of SMRT wrote to The Online Citizen, alleging that the "Keep Left" campaign created more escalator faults. 

The reason is allegedly because when we keep left to let people walk up on the right the escalator, the step chain (the mechanism that moves the steps, kind of like a bike chain) becomes elongated on one side.

This forced engineers to create increased tension on one side, to ensure that the steps remained straight.

However, this causes severe loading and shear stress on the gearbox, which may cause an increase incidence of breakdowns, or even accidents.

2) Walking on the escalator is proven to be more dangerous than standing on the escalator.

Even Japan wanted to encourage people not to walk on the escalator, and actually, stand where they like.

This is because a shocking 3,865 people in Tokyo had to receive hospital treatment for escalator-related injuries from 2011 to 2013 alone.

Elsewhere in Hong Kong, Francis Li, MTR (Mass Transit Railway) head of operating said that in the first seven months in 2015, 43 percent of these accidents was caused by falls due to people moving or walking along the escalator.

Similarly, they then started a safety campaign in August that year, with the same message: Don't walk on the escalator.

3) Not keeping to one side means less congestion, and everyone is happy.

Step in any MRT station during peak hours, and you'll most definitely see people crowding around the end of the escalator, lining up for their turn to get on it.

The Transport for London trial, held on November 2015, found that if people stood on both sides of the escalators, nearly 28 percent more people can get on the escalators, and bam, no more congestion.

Mind-blowing, isn't it?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Gif via[/caption]


TL;DR Gan's letter has a point -- but his letter needs to be better substantiated with research. He might have put it in but it could have been edited out. No one knows. Also, don't walk on the escalator.

Top image adapted via and via