Archive for August, 2015

Stand right, walk left

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Everyone knows that cars drive on the left side of the road in the United Kingdom. But what’s less obvious and more interesting are the rules for other modes of transport and the total lack of consistency between them.

The BBC, in a great article entitled Advice for foreigners on how Britons walk, points out that jaywalking is not in any way illegal in Britain, and summarizes other walking rules: Telling people how to walk is simply not British.

And indeed, while in Canada it is the norm to walk on the right, and in Australia to walk on the left, in both cases matching car regulations, in the UK no such norm in evident and a free-for-all is observed.

There are exceptions. Escalator stand/walk separation, if observed, is always stand right, walk left in Britain, so same as in Canada and opposite from Australia. Unsurprisingly this is observed very strictly on the London Underground. But pairs of escalators on the Underground and elsewhere in London are not arranged consistently, and there doesn’t appear to be a preference for having them to the left. Sometimes the escalator layout is driven by space considerations, but both the Jubilee line cathedral at Canary Wharf and the brand-new Crossrail Place nearby have escalators entered on the right, requiring walking on the right to get to them.

Corridors in Underground stations use either keep-left (e.g. Victoria station between District and Victoria lines) and keep-right (e.g. Green Park station between Victoria and Piccadilly lines) signs as convenient for the particular station. Trains themselves generally run on the left, with only a few exceptions to facilitate mainline access to platforms or easier connections on the tube.

Revolving doors generally spin counterclockwise, same as in Canada, requiring entering to the right and so suggesting walking on the right.

You might think that’s just pedestrian rebellion. But, wonderfully, on Britain’s canals and rivers, boats pass on the right.