Friday, August 26, 2005

Korean subway gym

Subway systems generally have escalators to help move people up and down the subway stations. Human traffic is generally very high, especially during peak hours. People move at different pace, but seem particularly quicker during peak hours. A couple of years ago, the Singapore subway system (the MRT) encouraged commuters to use the left side of the escalator if they want to remain stationary on the escalator in order to allow others to walk up the moving escalators. This had limited success. Even today, not every commuter is cooperative.

I was therefore surprised to find that in South Korea, every subway commuter, without exception, spontaneously stands to the right of the escalator to allow others to walk by. My colleague and I, although foreigners in that land, automatically fell in line with that practice. It just felt like the thing to do.

I wonder how long Singapore commuters will take to achieve this. I am not sure what is required. When it was first suggested in Singapore, I was one of the uncooperative commuters, for I thought that nobody should be telling me how to ride an escalator, or which side I should be standing on to allow other commuters to pass me by. After all, I am a left-hander and tend to hold my bag with my left hand. So standing on the right side holding the handrail with my right hand was more natural. This argument for right-handers would be the opposite. For one reason or another, this wasn't an issue for South Korea's commuters. What is the difference between Singaporean and Korean commuters, I wonder?

On a different note, one of the most challenging things about the Korean subway is the miles and miles of staircases commuters have to 'conquer' to get from platform to the street-level and vice versa. There just seems to be so many of them, with so many steps, that the commuter can safely stay away from the gym so long as they take the subway everyday. It'll keep them fit.

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