Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Confusing reversed passenger flow at Cannon Street tube station

tl;dr - a bleat about confusing tube-station signage, with everyone walking in the wrong direction.

Everyone who uses the underground learns, probably quite quickly, that you walk on the left and stand on the right (on an escalator). However there are a handful of tube stations on the system where parts of the passenger route ask you 'keep to the right' when walking - the upper level section of Baker Street and all of Cannon Street tube station come to mind.

I have no idea why Cannon Street tube station wants people to walk on the right and none of the staff I've spoken to seem to know either. Presumably someone deliberately made this decision after doing some test or other. I'm afraid it isn't working.

All the signs say 'keep right' but plenty of people ignore this.

The signs are also poorly signed. They fail to take account of where people's eyes are looking, and fail to make it clear that something is different about this station.

If you use are a user of a sytem in which almost every other station is 'keep left' then you can be forgiven for thinking you're meant to walk on the left. Signs on the left hand side may be seen, but ignored (and because only one word (right, for left) is different the signs look identical so people probably don't even 'see' them). As everyone expects those signs to say 'Keep Left' no-one's looking on the right hand side - why would they, they're walking on the left.

Above: This is at the top of the stairs leading to Platform 1 (trains to Victoria). There are Keep right signs but they are on the right hand side of the entrance to the stairs where no-one is looking. There is no such advice on the left hand side (and it would likely be ignored anyway, or misread as Keep left as the signage is otherwise identical).

Below: Wider shot of image above, blurred, showing no sign on the left and presence of central bannister in stairs - removing that and the signs would solve this problem. The person with the hooded jacket is walking down the correct right hand bit of the stairs, though they are still walking on the left hand side of that bit.

Given that you're asking people to walk down the 'wrong' stairs the signs need to be positioned more obviously, on the ground with those shoe sole shaped things (that they have on some escalators) indicating where your feet should be and which direction to travel in, or hang a sign above the staircase saying 'this way' or 'no entry' - they had this at Baker Street when you transferred from Metropolitan to Bakerloo lines using stairs down into the station.

If you want users (passengers) to follow your instructions then you need to design the system to accommodate their prior expectations and make it very clear that something is different at this station.

My advice is simple and effective - and it would save a lot of confusion for the passengers who do see and obey the signs and find themselves facing lots of oncoming commuters. Remove the damn signs completely. Everyone already knows to keep left and the lack of signs means that people will simply default to that (in fact that is what they are already doing now, because they're certainly not seeing or paying attention to the signs). Those that don't know* will fall in with everyone else walking left and won't be confused by signs telling them something different. This will also be a lot cheaper than re-signing the station.

For the stairs to Platform 1 I'd also recommend removing the central bannister, so that people on the 'wrong' side can more easily move out of the way. At the moment you commit yourself to one 'side' when you walk onto the stairs and there's not a great deal of passing room. The stairs to / from Platform 2 don't have this central bannister problem and it is much better signed on the corridor towards it (not so great from the platform but it's rarely a problem).

It would be interesting to know if there's a particularly good reason why someone thought everyone should move on the right. If it's absolutely essential for people to keep right (have to assume it isn't given that almost no-one does) then (a) make the signs look really, really different fromt the Keep Left ones and (b) think about where people's eyes are actually pointing as they move around the station, and put the signs there.

*The current system is confusing as regulars walk on the left and visitors / tourists (often with large bags) look for the signs and obey them, with the result that everyone has to walk around each other on busy stairs.

Maybe I could just use the lift ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).