why escalators on the London underground have people stand on the right walk in the left despite convention in the country being that you typically would overtake on the right?


As a Brit I must admit this has me stumped. For doing things like driving, walking up stairs and various other things it is convention to keep left and allow other people moving fast to pass on the right yet on the underground it is the opposite. There are signs which tell you to stand right, allowing people to walk on the left.

Additionally, the direction of the escalators are the ‘correct’ way round according to convention, with direction of the escalator you would need to take approaching them being on the left.


Public transport consistency for tourists, primarily. Most other countries use the same conventions, and tourists using public transport in London will be used to those conventions.

Outside of public transport, the “keep to the left” convention is not really universal, or mandatory, aside from driving.

Could be that for older less stable on their feet people having a hand rail on the right is safer?

There’s a very simple explanation for that. Most people are right handed and as it is recommended to always hold the handrail when using the escalator, it is logical to stand on the right side so you can hold on with your right hand. This stems from the early days when escalators weren’t as smooth as now and were prone to jerking and sudden stops.

It is — apparently — [a historical throwback](https://londonist.com/london/transport/why-don-t-we-stand-on-the-left-escalators).

>It all dates back to when the first successful escalator (there was a failed attempt to build a spiral escalator beforehand) was introduced on the tube in 1911 at Earl’s Court Station. Alighting an escalator was different back then to nowadays. There was a diagonal partition — beneath which the stairs disappeared — that shunted passengers disembarking to the left. So it was decided that those walking up the escalator should stand on the left, otherwise they’d have to cut through a line of those standing. And that would’ve been mayhem.

Because people got used to the idea of standing on the right on an escalator, so the theory goes, it became standard practice even when the design changed.