In the light of the London Olympics, it might be a good idea to refresh our knowledge of the rules of the Tube, and so I collected a few pointers on how to behave on the London Underground if we do not want to cause Tube rage. Commuters have been dreading this since London was announced the host for the 2012 Olympics: the already crowded subway trains becoming even more crowded during the event, and not just with anyone – with tourists, their worst enemy. Their nemesis. Nemesis!
How not to cause Tube rage
Don’t worry, these tips are rather quite practical, not along the fluffy-bunny lines of “hug a commuter” – chances are you’ll be standing in their armpits anyway. Also, don’t be offended, these are not meant to be condescending or lecturing, but having commuted through central London myself for years, I see these things happening on a daily basis, and sometimes we all need a bit of reminding of the basics. So let’s recap:
1) Avoid rush hour
Try to avoid rush hour if you can. It’s cheaper to travel on the London Underground during off-peak hours. Peak hours are from 6.30 to 9.30 am and 4 to 7 pm Monday to Friday.
2) Don’t linger at the barriers
Don’t just stop after going through the barriers. If you’re temporarily disoriented because you can’t see any sign and are overwhelmed by the many people, just move to the side so that others can go through the ticket barriers after you. The same goes for leaving the Tube and exiting through the barriers. If you can’t spot your exit right away, just move to the side, and ask someone – you’d be surprised how nice and helpful Londoners can be!
3) On the escalators, stand on the right, walk on the left
On the London Tube, everyone’s always on the move. There’s a constant flow of people, and they want to get from A to B fast. If you stand on the left on the escalator, you’ll know. Someone will immediately ask you to move by voicing a stressed “Excuse me!” in a not-so-amused tone. So, stand on the right, walk on the left. Simples! And here’s a rhyme for the Germans: “Links gehen, rechts stehen.” Ist doch gar nicht so schwer!
4) Don’t stop. Keep moving
Similar to rule #2, don’t stop and stand, ever, unless you’re off to the side or against a wall, particularly not when going through barriers, onto or off escalators, or where tunnels fork between tube lines or at the entrance to the platform. Just be aware of your fellow travellers – they are all moving and there are always more people arriving behind you. If you have to stop then, please move to the side, so you’re not in other people’s way. Londoners will thank you for that (in their minds, not verbally – no time!).
5) Let people get off the train first
This is one of the most important ones, and particularly important to note for cultures where the art of queuing is less practiced than in Britain. You will not only get evil looks but also angry prompts to move away from the door and to let people get off the train first. People will call you out!
6) Move inside the carriage
Once you let everyone off the train first, step on the train and move inside the carriage. Just like with the barriers, and when reaching the platform, don’t just stand in the doorframe, move inside the carriage so more people can come onto the train. London may not have the white-gloved “pushers” shoving people onto Tokyo subway trains, but we don’t need them either. Again, people will call you out if you just block the entrance.
7) Suitcase? Move to the side
If you have a suitcase, position yourself to the side. Many tube trains even have a “multi-purpose” area for suitcases, strollers, etc., and feel free to ask someone to move away from that space for you – they are very likely to oblige because your request makes sense.
8) Don’t eat on the Tube
Also, when on a Tube train, please don’t eat. Chances are it’s quite hot and smelly anyway, and no one wants to smell food on a crowded train. Pretty please!
9) Give up your seat for others
This is a just common courtesy. Please give up your seat for pregnant women, the elderly or anyone else who may need to sit down. There’s the old conundrum of identifying a pregnant woman. Sometimes it’s not that obvious, but you could also look for the “baby on board” button from Transport for London, which I’ve seen a lot of pregnant women wear.
10) Take your bag down
Please take your bag down when standing on a Tube train. This one is also a no-brainer. It is amazing how we become unable to sense others personal space when we wear a backpack or a large handbag, and we bump into them all the time. Make everyone’s journey more comfortable and just put it on the ground between your feet.
Alright, fine, here’s the motivator. 1-10 make it sound like it is a horrible experience (again, please avoid rush hour…). The Tube may be crowded but if you follow the rules on how to behave on the London Underground, you won’t have any troubles and get from A to B relatively quickly. So stay calm and you won’t cause Tube rage. Goosfraba!
What’s the worst sort of behaviour that triggers your Tube rage?