Predatory Stairs: You’re Probably Underestimating That Escalator

A Terrifying Image from Canva

For years I’ve worked high traffic customer service jobs. This, combined with a tendency towards obsessive behaviors, has led me to a worry that’s bordering on pathological.

I’m worried about you.

I’ve seen you casually texting on, letting your kids sit on, running up on, blocking people on, and on, and on…the escalator.

You’re stressing me out.

If I had a choice of which character from a Kevin Smith movie to emulate I would chose the talented, sexually secure, way too good for Ben Affleck anyway Alyssa from Chasing Amy.

But here I am stuck being Brodie from Mallrats. Screaming at you to get your damn kid off the escalator.


Three years ago the staff newsletter at my job was left in the care of someone apprehensive about the added responsibility.

Unsure if he had enough potential writers he emailed me.

What sort of topics would I be interested in writing about?

I sent back an outline on escalator safety.

He responded that he would probably just let the newsletter fold.

That hurt.

I’m sure it didn’t hurt as much as the person whose hands I had to keep away from their face until the paramedics arrived, after they took hard fall down the middle of an escalator. Smashing their glasses and wedging the right lens firmly into their cheek.

But it did hurt.

I had been pitching various periodicals and attempting to gather injury stats from large venues for about nine months.

Stats are not easy to get. I was told there were privacy concerns. I suspect it’s more “legality concerns”.

And the periodicals were unanimous in their lack of interest.

After causing the staff newsletter to fold I texted my coworker Krishna about the challenges pitching this article.

The conversation went as follows:

Krishna: Oh wow. Escalator safety. Step aside Woodward and Bernstein.

Me: Yeah. That’s right. Step aside. Especially when you reach the bottom of an escalator. There might be someone behind you and that shit is dangerous.


This Shit is Dangerous!

The escalator began as a novelty. An amusement ride at Coney Island. It would be re-designed (and named) by Charles Seeberger in 1897.

Since the switchover from ride to transportation safety has been a concern, at least for those in the escalator business. While I witness the general public display a lack of respect for escalators daily, here is what the good people at Sterling Elevator Consultants (yes, they work with escalators too) have to say, “An escalator is a six ton moving machine and should be treated as such. They require the same level of respect as a moving automobile.”

MIA “bad girls” also how I’ve seen people act on escalators

Now, I have many stories of pain and blood. Stories involving children, the elderly, abrasions, bruises, stitches, and broken limbs.

And I do have some scary stats. According to Safety Research & Strategies despite there being far fewer escalators operating in the U.S. than elevators injuries occur more frequently on escalators, about 15 times more, than on elevators. In 2013, there were 12,260 escalator-related injuries and deaths reported in the United States, and the majority of these accidents happened to children (14 and under) and seniors.

But I don’t want you to fear escalators (as I now do). They are an excellent advancement in people moving. And you all have places to be. I would just like you to respect them.

I have seen people use escalators as baggage movers (one person standing at the bottom and putting a bag on each step while another person stands at the top and collects bags), I have seen people lift luggage carts up over barriers put up specifically to keep people from taking luggage carts up escalators, I have seen people try to ride on the handrail, and skateboard down divides.

And maybe that’s not you. But you’ve possibly texted on an escalator, or gone on while carrying multiple items, and you’ve probably run up or down one.

Please Stop. There are people who love you. And those stairs have teeth.

Stay Safe Up There

The Do’s for escalator safety are straightforward for riders.

Do: Use the handrail, pay attention, keep away from the sides, keep items off the handrail, hold small children firmly with one hand, step on and off promptly.

One thing I always make sure to do now is note the type of emergency stop button on the escalator.

For example take these two (one from my job and one from a train station):

The top stop is easy. Just lift the plastic to gain access to the button. But for the bottom stop you need to push the button in order to lift the cover, to then push the emergency stop button. Simple enough, except when a person is falling down with their walker you might not be fast to figure it out. So a quick check prior helps.

So this was it. The article about escalator safety nobody wanted. Except me.

Step aside Woodward and Bernstein.

Poet, Writer at Optimistic Learner and Digital Economy Forum. Board member at Vancouver Poetry House.

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