Keep to the Right? Taipei Finds Old Habit on Escalators Hard to Shake

Keep to the Right? Taipei Finds Old Habit on Escalators Hard to Shake
Photo Credit: *嘟嘟嘟*CC BY 2.0

What you need to know

After the Japanese campaign promoting standing firmly on escalators over keeping to a certain side, the old etiquette to keep the right is no longer enforced due to public safety concerns. However, people in Taipei still find it hard to abandon the habit that has existed for more than 20 years.

Compiled and translated by Yuan-ling Liang

Have you ever noticed a special behavior in Taipei’s MRT stations? When taking an escalator, people tend to stand on the right side and leave the left vacant for those who are in a rush.

Exclusive behavior of only Taipei locals?

On March 28, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je attended a press conference held by the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit, celebrating its 20th anniversary. In his speech, Ko says that he notices “leaving the left side of the escalator for commuters in a rush” is a unique habit only held by people in Taipei.

“I observe that such behavior only exists in Taipei now,” says Ko, “some even say that it’s a feature to tell ‘Taipeiese’ apart.”

But this escalator etiquette has also existed in Japan in the past.

Last summer, the mass transportation systems and airports in Japan launched a campaign to promote “proper handrail-holding” while taking an escalator. They educated the passengers to “stand firmly” and banned running or walking on the moving staircase.

The Japanese Elevator Association explains, the move to stand on the right side and let others pass quickly on the left is actually in conflict with the fundamental principle of its design. To balance the weight on the escalator and alleviate the machine’s burden, people should stand on both sides without walking or running.

A habit that is hard to shake

20 years ago, MRT officials implemented the “keep right” policy when the MRT launched. They advised passengers to give way to those in a hurry and therefore promoted the “standing on the right” habit.

However, in 2005, an accident happened and made MRT officials cancel the policy. On New Year’s Eve that year, a lady was pushed by the fast-moving crowd on the escalator and fell down. Her scalp was dragged into the machine and five people were injured in the accident.

Since then, the Taipei MRT has changed the policy and educated people to stand properly on the escalator. They make signals and play an audio repeating, “Please hold the handrail and stand firmly on the escalator," as a reminder for the passengers.

However, citizens in Taipei have held this habit since 1996 and still have difficulty breaking this unspoken-rule.

MRT officials say that they will emphasize more on passengers’ safety during rush hours and help evacuate the crowds. They also promise to assign more personnel on holidays to prevent accidents.

Some people are concerned that the move of laying stress on only one side may harm the system. Yang Chin-heng, director of the TRTC (Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation), tells the press that the systems are now all under scheduled maintenance and have no serious problems.

“We will continue to investigate the operation of the escalators closely,” says Yang.

Edited by Olivia Yang

Storm Media
Apple Daily
Liberty Times
China Times
“A Japanese campaign wants to rewrite the global rules of escalator etiquette" (Washington Post)