A new Japanese social epidemic: Walking on escalators

A new Japanese social epidemic: Walking on escalators

In an effort to prevent spills, Japanese subway stations are starting to outlaw the practice of hurrying up the moving steps
walking on escalators
Watch out, guy in yellow shirt. Running up an escalator may seem cool but could cost you an eye. (Photo by Flickr user theeruditefrog)

According to Sankei/MSN, metro stations in Japan are starting to prohibit walking on escalators in order to curb a rash of escalator-related accidents. The escalator industry has identified the act of leg-powered movement on an escalator as a "dangerous action" (危険行為). As quoted in the article, the Japan Elevator Association says that escalators are not meant for walking, and people should not stand on one side to let walkers go by.

To back up these claims of an 'escalator walking' epidemic, Sankei/MSN points to a doubling of escalator-related accidents from 1993-1994 to 2003-2004. The expansion of 2,000 escalators during this era, however, may be the real reason for the increase in that more escalators means more opportunities for clumsy people to fall down.

Not to mention the fact that the number of incidents in 2003-2004 was still just 674 in a nation of 127 million people. If 50 million Japanese ride five escalators per day, that means a total of 91.2 billion escalator rides per year. So less than 0.0001% of escalator rides end in casualties.

Tokyo has yet to officially outlaw walking on escalators but is putting up posters warning of its dangers. The article quotes a spokesman from the Tokyo Transportation Authority who admits they have to accommodate "the people in a hurry."

That may be the case, but if Tokyo refuses to ban walking on escalators, the responsibility to stop this horrible social menace must start with each of us. Will you be able to tell your children, "I did my part to eradicate escalator-related injuries in Japan"?

W. David Marx was CNNGo's initial Tokyo City Editor. His writing has also appeared in magazines such as GQ, Brutus, Weekly Diamond, and Nylon, as well as his web joural Néojaponisme.

Read more about W. David Marx