The Danger of Escalators

Let me ask you a question.

If I told you I came up with a brand new invention that was like stairs, but they moved, and all you had to do was get on them and it would transport you to the upper level of any building… But the stairs were made out of sharp knife blades, would you tell me that was a good idea or a bad idea?

Right. So why then am I the only person to vilify escalators as the most dangerous transportation device on the face of the Earth?

It’s no secret that I once had a horrific run-in with an escalator as a child — a time when my foot was almost chopped off in the process. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case — but I find it extremely ironic that, next to cans of food, the escalator is one of the few pieces of technology that has yet to be improved.

Think about it — from the time escalators were invented, have we seen any kind of safety improvements? How often do you get to the top of an escalator and see keys jammed in the death jaws? How often have you heard stories of people getting their feet caught in the steps? How many children are more afraid of escalator steps than the monsters underneath the bed?

Isn’t it about time that someone did something about escalators?

How many times have you just about gotten your arm stuck in an elevator door as it was closing? How many times has the elevator door actually stopped, then made a weird high-pitched ringing sound? How many times have you tried to stick your head in the microwave and realized that the safety feature causes the microwave to shut off right before you attempt to cook your skull? How many times have you tried to electrocute yourself and that dang GFI reset button jumps into effect and saves you from yourself?

If you answered more than once to any of the above questions, then this next paragraph should make a lot of sense.

Why is it that there are no real safety measures put in place for an escalator? Why is it that you can go ahead and get multiple body parts cut off if you get anywhere near to where the deathly sharpened step meets the slick, slippery metallic wall? Why is it that if you were to pry a stair away from the mechanism you would see nothing but air? There’s like a huge drop underneath those stairs — nothing to save you if you happened to (while you were riding one) use a bunch of tools to take off a stair then jump into the mechanism below.

I think about these things, I guess. Often.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a technology in a Mall or Business Park that is as dangerous, as fear-inducing and as potentially life-threatening as the escalator. I think you’d also be hard pressed to come up with a reason why such a technology has not been improved over the years. And so, I would like to offer up just a few suggestions to the elevator inventors who frequent WFME. They include:

Harnesses for all escalator riders — at the first sign of getting your foot caught and chopped off by the sharp stairs, you will be whisked up into the air as if a parachute just opened.

Escalator rider chaperones, who will assist you in placing that first foot on a good place on a good stair (i.e., they’ll make sure both feet are placed centrally, away from the sides or the edges of the stair).

Escalator encouragers who will work in tandem with the chaperones and will give you calming, supportive words (i.e., “Halfway there, just hang in there buddy boy”) as you make your way to the top.

Canine companions — have a favorite dog? They’ll make sure a cute little friend is waiting at the top for two reasons: to encourage you to get to the top and to retrieve you like a lost hiker in the Andes, if you go down or collapse in the process.

Velcro stairs and shoes — remember the David Letterman velcro suit and wall? Same thing. Here, escalator passengers will be given special velcro booties that will stick right to the velcro stairs. At the top, there will be huge circus body builder performers who will rip you off the stairs (by your shoulders) before your velcro feet get sucked into the machinery. Less dangerous than what we’ve got today, so I think this is a good idea.

Stairs. Get rid of the escalators. Just put in stairs.

I hope that these simple and easy to implement ideas are read by those in power at the escalator companies. I suspect they will, as they always have, read them and disregard them due to the fact that there is no current movement striving to improve the technology of escalator safety in this country.

And on that note, I’d like to end this piece with a haiku about escalators. Please note, I do not write haiku in the traditional fashion (i.e., 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables). I like to mix it up a little:

Those escalators, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!
Watch out, your feet might get caught, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt! Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!

40 comments on “The Danger of Escalators

  1. Fabe - November 7, 2005 at 10:06 am -

    escalators scare the crap outta me too, but i’m lazy enough to forego the inherent dangers in favor of not having to climb stairs.

    that being said, your velcro idea rocks! where can i sign the petition?

  2. Pauly D - November 7, 2005 at 10:13 am -

    I knew that Velcro idea was good.

  3. monkeyinabox - November 7, 2005 at 10:42 am -

    Velco was so cool in the 80’s but not as much these days.

    How about this, a series of trampolines on different platforms? You could BOUNCH BOUNCH BOUNCH BOUNCH yourself up and down between levels. It would be fun, provide exercise and for every child who really wanted a trampoline, this would be a way for them to experience it if they never had before.

    Considering that the only place I usually encounter an escalator is in shopping malls, it would be a great place to add excitement.

    Orange Julius IN – BOUNCH BOUNCH BOUNCH – Orange Julius OUT.

  4. kristine - November 7, 2005 at 11:02 am -

    i’m calling your bluff, PD. just like i’m calling my Mom’s. for YEARS, Paul–YEARS–i have lived with the fear of getting caught, mangled, and dismembered by an unfortunate moment of reverie or precarious misplacement of a toe.

    but WHY? as i grew, i realized–wait a second, this is a SCAM! keep the kids living in fear so they won’t run away or embarrass you, right? but, paul–and MOM–the escalator never eats anyone. i’m certain. just like you can get scalped on a roller coaster.

    i’m sorry, but i refuse to live my life in fear. i refuse to let the terrorists win.

  5. lisa - November 7, 2005 at 11:52 am -

    I don’t know about the velcro thing, but I’m very much in favor of both the harnesses and the chaperones. If someone could just tell me when to step on, elevator riding would be a lot less traumatic.

    I also HATE when an elevator is broken, and I have to walk up it for some reason (like, if I can’t find the stairs). The beginning and ending steps are all frozen at different heights, and I can never figure out how high to step.

  6. Kevin - November 7, 2005 at 12:03 pm -

    -Escalator rider chaperones, who will assist you in placing that first foot on a good place on a good stair (i.e., they’ll make sure both feet are placed centrally, away from the sides or the edges of the stair).

    -Escalator encouragers who will work in tandem with the chaperones and will give you calming, supportive words (i.e., “Halfway there, just hang in there buddy boy”) as you make your way to the top.

    With these two ideas alone, you’ve pretty much wiped out the unemployment problems of the first world. How do I nominate you for a Nobel Peace Prize?

    “Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don’t hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent – I don’t care which one – but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.”

    –Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee), “Mallrats”

  7. lisa - November 7, 2005 at 12:08 pm -

    ok, i just reread my comment and realized I said elevator instead of escalator. Maybe I have some kind of escalator dyslexia?

  8. Amber - November 7, 2005 at 4:02 pm -

    I went through a phase where I refused to get on an escalator. I’m not sure how I snapped out of it, but somehow, maybe by sheer force of will, I did it. Now the only escalators I really fear and hate to ride are the ones at the airports. It just doesn’t get any more awkward than trying to not only find a foot position that will prevent you from falling, but also finding a non-dangerous position for your rolling luggage bag. It’s an accident waiting to happen, I tell you.

  9. Pauly D - November 7, 2005 at 4:07 pm -

    How much worse, Amber, are those people movers? You’re walking along, speeding past everyone not on the people mover and then you hit dry land and WOOOMPFH!

    The change in speed coefficient throws you to the ground, luggage and all.

    At least you can’t cut your foot off, but still.

  10. Lala - November 7, 2005 at 5:42 pm -

    Not only do they throw you and your luggage off but they slow the world down too. Nothing like speeding along and then boom, you’re moving like a snail.

  11. Jaclyn - November 7, 2005 at 5:52 pm -

    Finally, I realize I am not alone in my fear of escalators. Isn’t there a cool phobia name for it?

  12. Pauly D - November 7, 2005 at 5:56 pm -

    The official term for the phobia, Jacyln, is escalatophobia.

  13. Melissa - November 7, 2005 at 7:24 pm -

    Hello, my name is Melissa and I’m escalataphobic. It all began back when I was a little kid and my Nanny fed me horror stories about small children not minding their parents and running off wildly in department stores and either getting kidnapped by that mean looking guy over there or losing a foot to the escalator. I can now proudly say that I only stand and count out 6 moving steps before I make the leap onto the beast.

  14. Tim - November 7, 2005 at 8:00 pm -

    When I was a but a tadpole, I had an incredible amount of trouble with the damned escalators. Just how are you supposed to get on those stairs that always move without losing your balance and falling down to a spiky death?

  15. AJ - November 7, 2005 at 9:07 pm -

    No, the safety of escalators hasn’t improved, but SNEAKER safety has improved a great deal. See where I’m going with this? Huh? Huh?

    And, Tim, human tadpoles are called “sperm”. See where I’m going with this? Huh? Huh?

  16. Sarcomical - November 7, 2005 at 10:32 pm -

    okay, now you have created a serious problem as i already have to take a very deep breath and brace myself before getting on a down escalator. usually if my husband’s there i grab his arm with one hand and the railing with the other. if no one’s there, i grab the railing for dear life and try to stay balanced.

    you have given me reason to be more terrified of them. an empty drop?!? i’m feeling faint.

  17. Jacquie - November 7, 2005 at 10:54 pm -

    You know, I used to think that getting sucked into an escalator was just something the big people told me when I was little to keep me from having fun on the escalator but my father in law is an escalator repair man and he confirmed that the escalator is indeed a very dangerous mode of transportation.

    While we are on the subject, ski lifts are pretty scary too!

  18. Darrel - November 8, 2005 at 6:28 am -

    Wow.. I thought my mom was the only one who told me stories about kids getting eaten by escalators. She told me tots of stories which may explain my confusing mix of fearlessness and paranoia i live with. The emergency stop button being pressed by some kid was my worst fear… tumbling down the metal stairs and landing with a shredded face, either paralyzed or dead. How about some neoprene stairs or something?

  19. LisaBinDaCity - November 8, 2005 at 7:30 am -

    Yikes your foot was almost chopped off by an escalator?? That was always my fear as a kid – I’m really sorry it happened to you. What a nightmare!

  20. Kathleen - November 8, 2005 at 10:03 am -

    it would have been funnier if you said at the beginning–

    Lemme ax you a question!

  21. Rabbit - November 8, 2005 at 11:03 am -

    I recall as a very young child I got one foot on the escalator step, but hesitated and left the other foot on the floor. Doing a split is even more painful when you’re stretched across the razor sharp edges of escalator stairs.

  22. Shawna - November 8, 2005 at 3:59 pm -

    oh man, escalators!!! i used to think they were the best devices ever created, they floated me from one floor to the next…almost as if i was riding a giant mythical creature. I loved them until i worked as a young teenager in one of those nicer department stores, not once or twice but FIVE times i saw people encounter near death experiences on the METAL MASS OF DOOM AND DESTRUCTION. I hate them now, i hate them and i will tell everyone i know my tale.

  23. Pauly D - November 8, 2005 at 4:08 pm -

    Shawna – I would love it if you could share your stories of DOOM AND DESTRUCTION here in the comments so we may all learn from the death just around the corner.

  24. Shawna - November 9, 2005 at 2:07 pm -

    The day I saw a grandma swear was the day I stopped believing in escalators. She wanted to go to the home decor department, this required a 2 floor trip on the moving stairs… I am not sure if she wanted to walk up the already moving steps, or if she was attempting flight from the metal jaws of death, either way she tripped and fell BACKWARDS… cutting her head open in the process… also ellicting some of the most interesting profanity I have ever heard. She was alive, thank GOD, but only because she was lucky and had a large handbag.

    I HATE THEM. i will make us t-shirts.

  25. Atomic Bombshell - November 9, 2005 at 11:24 pm -

    You are so right. I was TERRIFIED of them as a child, and still… Sometimes… If my footing isn’t sure enough… It all comes flashing back!

  26. Krisco - November 9, 2005 at 11:35 pm -

    They are completely petrifying. More so now that I have to stop two little ones from doing anything nutso on them.

    I have actually known two people who had toes cut off as children on escalators.

    You are right; why haven’t they made them safer? Hate to say it, but perhaps – not enough lawsuits. That will do it.

  27. Kathryn - November 11, 2005 at 1:11 pm -

    I saw a little girl who got her shoelace trapped in the side of the escolator step at an airport (America). Scary, I definately wouldn’t want that to happen to me! I live in England and here we don’t often have flat ecsolators that don’t elevate. America is known for iyts weight problem, so why is it still finding shortcuts to something that would be completly normal to a country without such an invention!?!

  28. Bright Meadow » yes, sir, captain tight pants - December 9, 2005 at 10:28 am -

    […] Paul Davidson on the Danger of Escalators. Just LOL. That’s it. LOL. […]

  29. sinead - March 18, 2006 at 2:07 pm -

    i’m not too scarred of escalators when they are moving, it is when they stop i feel dizzy and sick. I think they sould be banned al together we would all lose a bit weight by walking up stairs and all feal safer!

  30. Sophie - May 19, 2006 at 7:40 am -

    Thank you so much! I’m so glad that there are other people out there who feel the same as me. My boyfriend thinks I’m totally crazy for being scared of escalators, but I am terrified of them – escalators are evil!

  31. Kate - October 28, 2006 at 2:52 pm -

    Even as a child I was always somewhat leery of escalators. However, I rode them anyway. As I grew older, I developed a number of anxieties, among them a fear of riding escalators. I must state here that I’ve not had a bad experience with them so far. My mother used to think I was just trying to call attention to myself for making such a fuss when I was near an escalator. Then after she had to wear trifocals, she said she understood my fear. My mother is now deceased, but I sometimes go shopping with my sister. She is most tolerant of my fear and we automatically head for the elevators. Now I’m wanting to face my fear of escalators. My case worker is willing to go with me to help me in the capacity of standing beside me and acting as a cheerleader. Here’s hoping it works! Until I read so much about fear of escalators online, I thought I was practically the only one who felt the same way. Sorry I’m so long winded.

  32. Nicole - November 22, 2006 at 9:18 am -

    I think that Escalators are not that dangerous as long as your not me3ssing around on them and bein stupid. Some people may still think that they are very dangerous but really there not and maybe some people need to care more about what there children are doing then what other people are doing…WATCH WHERE YOUR GOING AND NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN.

  33. Kristin Lindsey - December 6, 2006 at 12:40 pm -

    Hi Paul- I really enjoyed reading your story. When I was 10 years and living in Buffalo, New York at the time, I got my right foot up to my ankle stuck in an escalator. I wasn’t even messing around on the escalator! I was standing beside my mom and all of a sudden, my foot was sucked into the escalator. My foot was caught between the side and the step. This happened just after I got on. I had to ride all the way down to the bottom. It was very painful! At the bottom of the escalator the was a lady that heard my screaming and brought over a jar of cold cream to try and free my foot. It took a little bit but, my foot was freed. I never lost any of my toes and I still have my foot in one piece. I was taken to the emergency room & they took xrays. I was very lucky! I only sprained my foot. I had it put in a cast. I can remember it looked like someone took a cheese greater to my foot. It was all torn up. I wanted to share my miracle story with you. I hope to hear back from you.

  34. Jane - December 14, 2006 at 10:34 pm -

    When i was little i almost fell down the escalator when it was going down. Luckily a lady behind me caught my shirt and saved me from falling to a terrible death.

    Seriously, it would hurt so bad to fall down an escalator moving down. Those edges of the stairs are sharp, they’d be blood everywhere. and if you had ebola or aids you could create quite the epidemic.

    Personally i think they should just take escalators out and make everyone take stairs. Or else escalators if you’re disabled. It would cut down on obesity and death-by-escalator accidents, basically just a good plan overall.

  35. TexasSeniorGal - January 4, 2007 at 11:41 am -

    I was gratified to find that my fear of escalators is not confined to the elderly. I have never been fearful of them at all and enjoyed them profusely when a child, but when I was 70, my sister and I started to take a down escalator, and I froze. She related that my mother had a similar fear as she aged. I did witness my four year old grandson as he caught his tennis shoe laces at the top of one of these stairs as he exited. His mother managed to pull off his shoe. Perhaps this had some unconscious effect on me; however, this was on an up stairway. Thanks for the ineresting subject and comments. This has had me puzzled since I haven’t feared much in my life.

  36. Tarquin - January 11, 2007 at 10:42 am -

    At last! someone else afraid of escalators! I hate them with a veagence. It’s the fact, that i am moving, but i cannot control myself, and i feel as if i can fall forwards or backwards at any time. You are DEFINATELY not alone. I am more scared of escaltors than anything else in the world, and alot scares me if i’m honest.

  37. Wendy - February 26, 2007 at 10:31 pm -

    Wow..I, too, thought I was the only one with this fear. I felt so stupid about it! I only fear “down” escalators..I have no problem going up. I avoid them totally if possible. Which can be a problem in Las Vegas!! MY favourite city to visit! It is very hard to avoid them there. I have never had a traumatic experience…I just feel very dizzy when I attempt to step onto a down escalator. It takes me a good many tries!! Does anyone know if this is a “real” phobia….or is it a balance problem?? It would be so much easier to explain if there was a real name for it!!

  38. Joe - April 22, 2007 at 12:31 am -

    Glad that I’m not alone in this.. personally I don’t fear them much but I recognize their possible danger.
    My first time on an escalator(felt quite awkward) it just threw me off balance a bit because I had my hands on my pockets, the second time though I stepped in the wrong place and the scalator step just opens below my feet and I almost fell backward.. if it wasn’t for a friend that was behind me and helped me.. I would’ve fallen and OUCH!
    I think most people’s first time on an escalator feels a bit awkward.. anyway, I think it’s not safe specially for children, I’d definitely take the stairs if I had kids.

  39. becca - October 4, 2007 at 4:10 am -

    i also have a fear of escalators but unlike many people above i have a fear of one traveling up wards it all started when i had a dream a couple of nights ago and i got stuck at the top and i was shredded into peaces.

    im telling you now escalators are dangerous!!!

    also once when i was a little kid i got my shoe lace stuck into the side of one and luckily my mum pull my shoe off in time and i was NOT playing on it.

    i hope some one else feels better about this crazy fear because i sure do.

  40. marion - January 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm -

    wow. everyone always laughed at me, and they said i was the only one. I thought i was the only one afraid of those evil death machines. i didnt even know it was called escalatophobia. when i went to the empire state building it took an hour longer than it should have because they didnt have public steps, so i had to get an employeee to take me on the elevator. they should make a laww against escalators.

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