Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dramatic Signs Don't Stop People from Walking on Escalators in Hong Kong

As I mentioned when discussing China's new desire for people to stand still on escalators, the place I most associate with people regularly standing on one side of an escalator and walking on the other side is Hong Kong. During my recent time there, nothing seemed to have changed in people's behavior. Admittedly, I walked up or down my share of escalators.

I even noticed a sign on an escalator for an elevated walkway in Wan Chai indicating the "stand on right" rule.

'Stand on right — Hold the handrail' sign on an escalator in Hong Kong

It may just be a leftover from an older time though.

On escalators for MRT (Mass Transit Railway) stations, notices indicate to "always hold the handrail", which doesn't necessarily preclude people from walking.

'Always hold the hand rail' and 'Anti-bacterial coating applied to handrail with addition disinfection regularly carried out' signs on an MTR escalator in Hong Kong

Although I didn't see any "standing only" messages in similar locations, on one occasion I noticed an announcement requesting people to stand still.

And in at least some MTR stations there are a few relevant but easy to miss informational posters mixed in with the many advertisements and other similarly posted signs common in stations.

a hold the handrail MTR sign with a man perilously standing on a high rock

The main message above is that is dangerous to not hold the escalator handrails. Additionally, the message to "stand firm" appears in small print at the bottom of the sign. The bottom half of the image reminds me of an incredibly perilous and since-closed path I once faced at the Stone Forest in Shilin, Yunnan. My self-preservation skills kicked in then, and I will take my chances walking on an escalator over that any day.

This certainly isn't the first MTR sign I have seen with a dramatic message. And it isn't the only MTR escalator safety sign which, um, escalates the sense of danger. Another sign warns against bringing baby strollers onto escalators.

MTR 'No Strollers on Escalators' sign with a teddy bear falling from a great height

Based on my informal observations, baby strollers are far more often used for babies than teddy bears. I am guessing the MTR has its limits for drama though. Baby strollers also can block people from walking on escalators, but that is probably a point the MTR wants to avoid.

There is even a related 2016 MTR escalator safety video. Like the signs, it is pretty intense.

The smashed tomato really makes it. While the "stand firm on escalators" message is expressed, the most relevant part of the video focuses more on "stay alert" and "hold the handrail", which could apply to stairs as well. On that note, according to a MTR safety report for 2015 there weren't any fatalities due to escalators but there was one caused by a misstep on stairs. It doesn't give numbers on accidents due to walking on escalators or stairs, which would be useful for evaluating the relative risks. Whatever the case, it is hard to argue with the "stay alert" message. Particularly in a busy environment, it is relevant whether you are walking on flat ground, stairs, or even an escalator.

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