Jan 23, 2008

Escalator Ethics

Sometimes, a system or ethics (which we define here as a proper way of doing something) is not obvious to a culture until it intersects with another culture.

As a result of our contact with the West, we Filipinos have also inherited some of these Western memes. There's good manners in the dining table and right conduct in a cinema. There's even phonethics for using mobile phones.

What I was amazed to find out in my travels abroad that there is a form of escalator ethics. Filipinos tend to hog escalators. We are a pretty laid back bunch of hobbits and when we go on the escalator, we stand on the step like we owned the whole contraption.

In Australia, New Zealand and UK, there are signs in escalators that say something like

PLEASE STAND ON THE LEFT (or RIGHT, as the case may be).

In short, there's a fast lane for escalators too. And this is very much the norm in the escalators in the mass transit systems.

In Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and in the HK International Airport, they also have these horizontal escalators to help tired travelers rush to their gates. These also have fast lanes.

In most cases, these escalators have signs. But when there are no signs present, the conduct is so ingrained in the locals that they tend to stand on the right side.

In our country, if a couple gets on an escalator, they will occupy both lanes. In the other countries where fast lanes are implemented, the couple will stand in single file, so that the left lane is kept free.

Escalator ethics reflects, too, on how we drive cars in highways. Prior to NLEX enforcing the fast lane, many drivers -- cars, jeeps, buses and trucks -- drove slowly on the fast lane, when this should have been kept free for overtaking. Thanks to strict enforcement, more drivers are now aware of the fast lane. However, on some occasions I still encounter a few slow vehicles on this lane.

Wanna know where there is no concept of fast lanes at all? Just try EDSA, Quezon Avenue, Katipunan and Commonwealth Avenue. Come to think of it, the vehicles there do not have a concept of LANES in the first place.

It would be easy to implement a fast lane in our escalator. We simply ask malls to start putting up signs to reserve the left lane for people in a hurry. Asking the SM and Ayala chain of malls pretty much covers most of the land and this ethic can then be propagated to the escalators at LRT-2 (the Aurora line), the airport, and other public places.


Urbano dela Cruz said...

you've got to ask where the stand on the right, walk on the left ethic comes from. understand that and you understand why we pinoys are not used to it.

it comes from the use of escalators in mass transit systems - mainly in subways. In western cities with subways (with the exception of the MTA stations in Manhattan), the escalators leading to the mezzanine and then the platform are long and deep. (I think the ones in DC go down at least 4 stories). Those in a hurry to catch the train would opt to jog down the moving escalator.

Our own experience with escalators has largely been in malls -- where there is no train to catch, so no rush. The people in the malls would be consumers and window shoppers who would take their time because they are "namamasyal" -hence the laid back, hog the escalator attitude. (our very first escalators -in the oldest malls, were also usually just 1 person wide.)

ben c. said...

That's a very good insight! Malls are the center of our Pinoy universe.

We carry whatever ethic we learn from malls. This is why in the few escalators inside the MRT, we also block the way, unmindful of people who are rushing to catch rides.

Speaking of mall culture, this reminds me that if environmentalists could conduct a successful awareness campaign in SM groceries to minimize use of plastic bags, then a major environmental victory will have happened.

There's a recent campaign by SM on this, but it requires minimum purchase of some grocery items -- hardly a good incentive.

Robby Villabona said...

Hi, Benc,

Actually what bothers me more about escalator users in malls is how a group of people would walk to the foot of an escalator, then stand there (blocking the path) debating whether they should go up or not. It's as if it's a national pastime to make decisions at the foot of escalators.

Less common are the groups of people who stop and stand looking like they're lost (blocking the path again) as they get off the escalator. But I equally hate it.

In the tradition of "sniglets", I've named these habits "escaloitering".

About those "green" bags. They're too small to be of practical use in groceries (for the amount of stuff we buy). And who remembers to bring them? I believe the only way to motivate Pinoys to bring reusable bags is to start charging for brand new one plastic bags.

P.S. I promise to return your books tomorrow :-) Been so busy.

Peter said...

check this site, www.rechtsopderoltrap.nl. A site made by two Dutch students abount the problem...seems that they also have the problem motivating people to stand right and walk left!