London Underground - Photo by Negativexpositive (CC 2.0)

Every year, 1.34 billion, yes that’s billion, passengers use the London Underground – the English capital’s version of New York’s subway. The city’s busiest station, Waterloo, receives 95.1 million commuters, tourists and shoppers every 12 months, so as you can imagine it really pays for everyone to get along when you’ve got thousands of people mingling in a confined, subterranean space.

To ease pedestrian congestion, the Tube, as it’s commonly known, has a few formal behaviour rules which are displayed on official signs, but for the most part convivial Tube riding relies on a bit of courtesy and common sense. So to help you avoid being given the dreaded side-eye on the Underground, here is my insider’s guide to Tube etiquette.

Stand on the right

One of those aforementioned formal rules is that anybody not walking down an escalator should stand on the right, allowing those in a hurry to progress serenely down the left. Despite the fact this notice is displayed prominently on all escalators, it’s amazing how many people still block up the whole staircase to have a chat with their friends. Save your group chat for the pub!

Keep walking

It’s perhaps even more perplexing how many people who actually manage to stride down 90 per cent of the escalator suddenly put on the brakes at the bottom where the stairs flatten out. Like lorries overtaking on a motorway, this causes a chain reaction behind and suddenly the whole escalator is jammed. Either walk the whole thing or stand aside!

Let people get off first

Not strictly a Tube problem – plenty of people do this when getting into lifts/elevators as well – but it’s maddening when you’re trying to get off a carriage and people on the platform attempt to push their way inside. If you let people get off first there will be more space inside for you – it’s basic science people!

Move down inside

Speaking of space, once your inside the carriage, luxuriating in the entrance to the aisle while everyone else is cramped in the doorways is another thing guaranteed to rile your fellow travellers. Avoid tetchy shouts of ‘Can you please move down?’ by keeping those doorways free.

Turn down your ear buds

If you insist on wearing ear buds rather than noise cancelling headphones, please keep the volume down. No one else wants to listen to the tinny remnants of your dance floor bangers at 8 am in the morning or the distant warbling of Celine Dion on their commute home.

And while we’re on the subject of headphones, if you’re going to use them make sure you’re being a courteous Tube rider, because it’s impossible to point out that you’re in the way if you can’t hear anything.

Bad smells don’t belong underground

Hearing isn’t the only sense that can be assaulted on the Underground. Nail varnish, fried chicken and sweaty clothes in a confined indoor space can all make for an unpleasant olfactory overload.

So there you have it – my quick insider’s guide to harmonious Tube riding.

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