We've Been Using Escalators Wrong This Whole Time, Research Shows, So Here's How To Speed Things Up

There are few things in this world that bother me more than being stuck behind someone who refuses to walk up or down an escalator, because I have places to be and holy heck why are you in my way. But the joke's on me, I guess, because according to new research revealed by The Guardian, we've been using escalators wrong this whole time. While walking up the steps of an escalator might seem like the intuitive way to reach the top faster, researchers have discovered that doing so actually slows everyone down in the long run.

Step inside any New York City subway station during rush hour, and you will likely see a common scene as people ascend up the escalator: those who are in a hurry will walk up one side, and those who prefer to just stand will do so on the other. Standers don't get in walkers' way, and if they do, they are almost immediately called out for it. But as Len Lau, a Vauxhall area manager in London recently discovered, there's a more efficient way of getting large crowds of people up and down escalators at once, and it's this: have every person, whether they're on the left or right side, stand still. That's right, no climbers. Just a whole bunch of people standing motionless as they make their way to the top.

Yeah, I was floored at first too. But, the logic makes a lot of sense. Here's what Lau figured out: While on vacation in Hong Kong, he noticed that everyone using the city's Mass Transit Railway rode standing still on both sides of the escalator. A weird quirk, maybe, but when Lau tried to recreate the situation back in London, he found that having all escalator users stand instead of walk was not only much more efficient and time-saving, but also safer.

During a three-week trial back at London's Holborn station, Lau and his colleagues directed all passengers using the escalator to do so while only standing. They found that an escalator could accommodate 81.25 people per minute who chose to use one side to walk, and 112.5 people who chose to stand. Slowing things down even further, when there are people both standing and walking up the elevator, there tends to be more space between them — space that could be occupied with more people, if everyone just stood still. Plus, most people actually prefer to stand, especially when there's a long incline, meaning it doesn't make much sense to have the majority of riders condensed to just one side of the escalator.

Crazy, right? Personally, I have trouble just standing still, be it on an escalator or otherwise. But, if I can shave off precious extra seconds from my commute in any way, I'm down to try it. Of course, this escalator approach only works if everyone cooperates — something that seems unlikely in the New York City rush hour ecosystem. I can't imagine telling someone behind me who is clearly in a hurry that it would be faster for everyone if they would just stand still — that's how you get punched in the face. But, this is a good reminder to just relax. One way or another, you're going to make it to the top eventually.

Images: Giphy