And why some people never will.
Standing on Escalators
Credit: Jenny Jones /Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

There are few things more infuriating than people who do not obey the time-honored rules of the escalator: walkers on the left, standers on the right. But the people who stand on the left side of the escalator may not be so terrible after all.

Walkers are generally the type of people who prefer efficiency: They choose to get some exercise and save a couple of seconds. But, according to researchers, their personal efficiency is slowing down everybody else on the escalator.

In situations where escalators are exceptionally long, most of the left side (which could have been filled with people) is generally left empty, leaving a clear path for the few people who choose to walk all the way up. But allowing only standers to take the right side causes congestion at the bottom of the escalator.

For one particular escalator scenario, researchers at Campgemini Consulting found that it takes, on average, 26 seconds to walk up an escalator and 40 seconds to ride it all the way to the top. However, these numbers don’t take into account when there’s congestion.

Figuring in the time it takes to wait for a spot on the escalator, get on it and then get all the way to the top, the entire experience will take walkers 46 seconds and 138 seconds for those who stand.

But when everybody on the escalator is forced to stand side-by-side (no walking allowed), average time spent on the escalator is 59 seconds. That’s a 13-second increase for walkers but a 79-second decrease for everybody who prefers to stand (about 60 percent of people).

However it’s incredibly unlikely that the people who choose to walk up the escalator will find any of this information reassuring and cities will find it even harder to implement standing-only escalator rules.