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Please Stand on the Right (if you are a loser)

Off to work 8.15 AM. (Nylon uniform.)

Everyone is allowed to have one or two petty pet hates. Trivial things, unnoticed to all but you. Things that rile you so much that they turn you to Pub Bore, re-telling your rants to disinterested friends and colleagues in futile attempts to vent your spleen.

Well, here is one of mine…

But first, a little background for those who do not live in London. An un-breachable piece of London etiquette dictates that, when entering or leaving Underground stations, you must stand on the right hand side of the escalators in order to allow those who wish to walk up/down the escalator to move by swiftly.

Here then is my gripe (which, I hope you will read knowing that much of my tongue is firmly in my cheek, and that there are perfectly good arguments against this…):

People who stand on the right of the escalator are losers.

I have tried to get over my feelings. But I feel this every time I run past the line of motionless people happy to be slowly borne, by no effort of their own, up or down the escalator on the right hand side.

I never, ever stand on the right hand side of the escalator. Even when I was so pathetically stiff from the Ballbuster race that I snapped the arm off my office chair lowering myself down into it.

Usually I sprint up the escalator as fast as I can. I do this even when I am not in a hurry. Why?

So even when I am in no rush at all I still run up the escalators. Sometimes I run up them and then deliberately saunter very slowly and casually along at the top. I do this to “make a point” to those loitering on the right hand side. Not surprisingly nobody has ever appeared to notice that this is what I am doing (for it is petty and childish)!

So, why do people standing on the right bother me?

  • It smacks of laziness. Especially when people QUEUE to get onto the right hand side of the escalator rather than walk up the left hand side.
  • People whinge about not having enough time to exercise, about how fat their arses are, about how lethargic they feel. And yet here is the perfect chance to burn some calories, suck some oxygen into your lungs and snap out of your self-induced life-coma.
  • Standing on the right is a metaphor for complacency*. Is that the best use of 20 extra seconds of your life?

I think that, like El Che or Bolivar or Madiba or Mahatma I have found my calling to revolution. Hasta la victoria, siempre! Here’s my bugle call, here’s my rallying cry:

“Stop standing on the right hand side of the escalator. Dash madly up the left, set the heart rating, feel the burn in your quads, buy yourself 20 extra seconds of life.
Catch me if you can!”

And here’s another Tube Challenge. In the stations that have lifts not escalators look out for the warning signs saying “Stairway. Do not take this staircase except in an emergency. 300 steps blah blah…”

Every day is a fricking emergency! Sprint up those steps as though your life depended on it. Race the lift, dash up the spiral staircase, pretend you are raiding a castle, try to count quickly to 300 as you sprint. Hasta la victoria!

*I am well aware that seeing everything as a metaphor for life (cold showers, 100 press ups etc.) is a potentially very annoying personality irritating trait, and one that sets me down the path of never, ever being able to chill out or relax).

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  1. Yes, yes, yes.

    I absolutely agree. I never understood this either when I lived in London. The escalators are so bloody slow, it’d drive me nuts if I ever got stuck behind a tourist standing on the left.

  2. Haha, this is great! Very funny with these types of entries, especially the honesty. I also totally agree with what you are writing.

  3. And the biggest rule of all is – NEVER STOP RUNNING! You cannot be seen to be tiring as you go up the stairs or escalators.

    Cycle lanes in Oxford are a perfect chase game too.

  4. Alastair Alastair! Where is the slow down and enjoy life. I despise people that are in such a rush to go on the left and run up those escalators. I prefer taking it easy, laid back. Maybe its my Greek background who knows?

    • Haha! Nice answer!

    • I’m with Andreas on this one. I find escalators are like the shower for my creative brain. I get amazing ideas when standing still for just those few seconds. I see faces, I look at the adverts, I hear snippets of conversation that appear in my writing. I get plot ideas. I see scars and tattoos and facial disfigurements. We have so little time in our fast moving modern lives that taking these moments of almost meditation is precious.
      I’m sorry you think I am a loser, Al … but I know I’m beating you with my word count on the next book, so I will continue to dream on my next escalator ride 🙂

  5. This is not just a London rule. This is a “rule” in the States, too. You do that because some people really are in a hurry, hate just standing still or want the exercise.

    If you’re just too tired or want the extra time to think or what have you, stand to the right, it’s only polite. See a little rhyme to help everyone remember!

    I expect it’s one of those universal rules.

  6. ha ha reading that made me laugh – I feel the same way but never thought there were others out there just like me…

    and btw – running to catch the person in front not juvanile – hilarious.

  7. Here’s another idea. Go there to the escalator, stand on the right, wait a bit the stairs to take you up – and then turn your face down the escalator. Look down – what a picture! Some of people rushing, some reading, other talking. Dozens of people so close in one place, each different.
    I used to rush, climb, be impatient. Now I’m addicted to stand on the right, looking down. Equally interesting.

  8. I absolutely agree! I can’t stand just idling behind someone else who is standing there on the escalator. You have to stare at their butt the whole time as you slowly go up. It sucks! I almost ALWAYS take the stairs and get to the top so much faster than everyone else on the escalator. It’s fun to see their faces when I fly past them on foot. I can’t stand going that slow… or simply following the masses and doing what everyone else is doing. Great post Al!

  9. I agree – people are lazy by choice, although they don’t often know it. It’s so easy to switch into autopilot too, especially on the dreary daily Tube commute (for those who do it that is). We need more reminders to snap out of it! And go for it! On the flipside, there are plenty of good reasons why people take the escalators, (baggage, heels, all sorts) and lumping everyone into the category of “loser” is not fair play. One of *my* pet hates is people who feel their way is better, and lambast those who don’t follow. Personally, Alastair, I agree with your way, but not everybody is the same. Would prefer more encouragement, less derogating. x

  10. “Travellators” at airports are also fun. Power walking to overtake the motionless wheely suitcases!

  11. wow, you sound like a boring arsehole of the highest calibre. it’s a real tragedy that no-one ever notices your revolutionary displays of deliberate sauntering at the top of escalators. an even bigger tragedy is that you haven’t managed to take away the very clear point that the fact that nobody notices you demonstrates (it’s that nobody gives a fuck, in case you’re still not getting it).

  12. And count those steps on the way up – how many can you do before you run out of escalator at the top??? The faster you go, the closer it gets. Challenge : can you break 50 steps going up the escalator from the Piccadilly Line at Kings X in the rush hour????

  13. Abso-bloody-lutely!

    I consider it part of my daily excercise to maintain my climbing speed, even when reaching the top of the second escalator at London Bridge in the morning commute, and my thighs are effectively still in bed. Bring it!

    And @Jim, perhaps no one else notices (but since you are obviously the omniscient being that none of the rest of us can but dream of aspiring to, we’ll assume you’re right and they don’t) but is it so wrong for people to take pleasure in little acts of randomness to break up otherwise routine days, whether or not they’re noticed?

    Besides the post’s clearly a little tongue in cheek. Sense of humour deficit?

  14. Hamish Moffatt Posted

    At a shopping centre near my office there are lifts and stairs from the car park to the shops; the stairs have a big sign asking you to please not use them. No reason is given.

  15. Brilliant! I always take the stairs myself – Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road have great spirals – and try race the lift up every time!

  16. Sambhram Patel Posted

    I’ll probably start carrying the bike on my shoulders and taking the stairs from tomorrow(also maybe because i smashed the phone in the lift with the bike today). 😛

    On another note,there is a difference between being lethargic and being at peace going slow and you seem to say that just standing around doing nothing is ….EVIL.This will lead to the ‘time is money’,career junkie,money money money…rat race bullshit.And heres the Love Police:

    Have a hectic day.

  17. Haha great article. I always walk up the escalator rather than waiting on the right, especially if there is a long line of people waiting to stand on the left. The only thing more annoying though its people standing on the right with a backlog of people behind them waiting to go up!
    My personal pet hate is people who mis-use the word etcetera

  18. This made me chuckle! I tend to be impatient too but however, being Hispanic, taking in the view always seems appealing.Oh and Jim, Stop whining and go stand on the right side of the escalator already.

  19. Sekairo NZ Posted

    Get over yourself! I am seriously in shock that somebody could be so arrogant. I wish i’d never read this. There is so much I wish to say to you about this but I am going to hold my tonge.

  20. Sekairo NZ Posted

    I wish I could un-post my post! What an idiot (me, not you!!). Please accept my apology. It’s your blog after all, and frankly it isn’t any of my business. Peace x

  21. I totally agree with this article, my personal favourite is the stairwell speed descent. Getting down the stairs as fast as you can but with minimal obvious effort, legs are going like the clappers but upper body nice and still, like river dance on stairs. This is obviously just a bit of fun to break up the sometimes monotonous journeys we make, and for the few negative comments maybe you should get back in the lift and enjoy the uncomfortable silence 🙂

  22. I am undefeated on the queensway spiral staircase! Never been overtaken. Even if there’s a fellow hot shot with good early pace, they invariably fail to keep it going into the final 10 steps

  23. A perspective from someone who is pretty much always on the right of the escalator….

    I am RUBBISH at remembering to stretch and after a series of knee and calf problems my podiatrist suggested always stretching my calves on the escalator to give me a cue to remember to do so (working in London at the time helped too). 15 years later I am still doing it. Every time I get on an escalator = calf stretch.

    Example here:

    Food for thought…

  24. Al, well said!

    You’re right of course, we know you’re right. Even those on here with a SoH failure know you’re right. I’m guilty. Worse still, I will keenly use the speedier left hand lane when going down but not when going up, contrary to my knee surgeon’s advice. We must try harder.

    My Underground peeve; those folk on the higher end of the BMI scale who will shove, barge and jostle to get the last remaining seat in the carraige. Dude, let it go, really, standing a bit will be good for you! Any fit and able chap sitting down in a packed carraige should feel a little sad about himself. Or put another way, better to have an armpit in your face than a crotch!

    Peeve #2; to the wise chap in central control who conjured up the wonderfully annoying phrase “we are regulating the service”, please drop me a line, I’d like to ‘thank’ you for that, personally.

    Must go, my escalator’s nearly at the top …

  25. You’re hitting the nail on the head!

    I already read this blog post about a year ago and since then I never again used an elevator or escalator if avoidable… And I feel fine! Can’t imagine how I survived the boring years before 😉

    But you don’t even know, how lucky yo are 😉 Here in Germany nobody at all leaves the left hand side free for others speeding by.
    Here you HAVE TO stand still on every escalator.

    But fortunately there usually exists a normal stairway right beside the escalator… Just for me alone 🙂

    Thanks for inspiration an greetings from Germany.

  26. If you had to wear heels everyday you would understand

  27. Sherif Louis Posted

    In other parts of the world like the US and Egypt, people stand on the left and on the right, thank you

  28. John Mitchell Posted

    Here is a game for the occasions when you have a clear run – it doesn’t matter if the right hand side is full of standers so long as the left is empty for a good distance. Now, deep breath, and start running. But, as soon as you hit the first step of the escalator you have to close your eyes and you have to judge from time or gradient when you are about to get to the top. The goal is to open your eyes just as you reach it. Of course the real fun is when you fail to judge it, when someone steps out in front of you and so on

  29. Funny article. I recently went to London for a day trip and I started off standing on the right, but as the day went on, I thought sod this and started walking up the right.
    I mostly did it going up to get out of the station more quickly, as I was slightly concerned I’d race past people on the way down then I’d get to the platform and there’d be no train, so I’d have to suffer the “see, it wasn’t any quicker was it, you impatient w***er?” expressions when the slow people joined me. Haha.



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