Attack of the Escalators?

My wife and kids were at a store today on an escalator and our boy’s hand got caught in the return slot of the hand rail at the bottom. The rails are a type of rubber that seem kind of ‘sticky’, I believe because they help you hang on better as you ascend or descend. Harder rubber would likely cause more falls. Like auto tires, you could make one that doesn’t wear much at all, but you’d slide all over the road. These rails seem to grip the hand pretty well, and adults just know when to let go. Unfortunately, kids do not. The rail drew his hand towards the return for the rail and trapped it. It abraded his hand and gave him, according to the description of the ER doc, a second degree burn and a contusion. He’s doing fine, BTW.

My question or poll is this:

Have any of you had, or heard of, problems with escalators? (i.e. injuries) I’ve read the odd article about someone being bound up by them, by clothes or otherwise, but is it commonplace? Frankly, I’ve never really liked them myself… too slow. I’d rather take the stairs. Thirty stories? Yeah, I’ll take the elevator. One floor? I’ll take the stairs.

Do you take the escalators in malls, etc.?
Ever had any problems?
Do they seem inherently dangerous to you?
Your thought and/or stories?


I use the escalator in the 2-story department stores at the mall and have read of such accidents for several years, but not often.

“Google is your friend”. By searching for “escalator injuries” I got 35,600 hits, including this one:

Good Luck.

BTW, this fellow fell while riding up an escalator and it took him 2 hours to reach the bottom.

(just kidding)

Escalators can be extremely dangerous, particularly when kids try to slide off them at the end. If a loose part of the shoe is grabbed by the mechanism, it can pull shoe and foot in, causing serious injury.

At the place I used to work, I once saw a father frantically carrying his young son, whose foot had been caught in the mechanism, off to the infirmary. The kid was screaming his head off. I never found out how badly he was hurt, but I was impressed by the danger.

I’ve never had a problem with escalators, but I have a story.

One evening, I was riding down the escalator at a mall. As I got off, I heard a commotion behind me. A woman wearing a floor length dress was a little panicked because a corner of her dress was caught in the treads and the dress was slowly being sucked in and she was in danger of being forced to the ground. Wordlessly I approached and took the Leatherman Micra out of my pocket. I opened the scissors, bent down, and swiftly cut the dress (as close to the stair as I could) and freed her. A second later, someone hit the emergency stop button, which freaked out the people still descending. A few screamed, the woman was distracted, and I simply walked away.

I never found out if she was happy or unhappy about what I did. I doubt I did anything as impressive as saving her life, and maybe she could have extricated the dress with reparable damage if I hadn’t intervened. I like to think I did the right thing, though.

The thing I think about now is that it’s amazing that no one fell and injured themselves when the excalator was suddenly halted.

My brother got his clothes caught in a movator once (similar to an escalator only it’s on one level and moves you from one area to the next. A moving sidewalk.)

We were at the airport, I turned around and he was gone… he was maybe 7 at the time. He was playing with it, putting his hand on the rail and ‘pulling’ it like he could make it go faster. Thank goodness the airport people got there before he got hurt, just a little greasy.

Now whenever I see kids trying to do that I warn them away. Gotten some rude looks as they go, but better that then having an injury on my conscious.

My SO got his foot stuck in one as a child. No serious damage, mostly a lot of wailing. And I’ve always been a little uncertain about them, but I really like them. I think it’s parents responsibility to watch their kids around them, no offense to the OP intended.

I guess you should prevent kids messing around on escalators in exactly the same way as you’d prevent them messing about at the top of a flight of stairs. Both are potentially dangerous objects.

When I was a child, a department store escalator ate one of my shoes. The stop button was in plain sight, but it was well out of reach on the wall opposite the landing. I just kind of hopped on one foot while my mom freaked until somebody could stop the escalator and get help. No harm to me, and the store replaced my shoes.

<obligatory Mallrats reference>

Goddammit! There’s that kid on the escalator again!


My friend who travels a lot for his job said he was sitting on a bench near the end of one of those long people movers at the airport eating his TCBY yogurt on a busy Monday morning.
The people mover was full and someone in a wheelchair was getting near the end.
When they reached the end the wheelchair stopped in place while the wheels contiuned to turn and the belt kept moving. He said an immediate pile up began as people and their luggage were suddenly piling up behind this person and people started to panic.
He said it was so surreal that he didn’t believe what he was seeing and froze in place watching the whole thing unfold while he was enjoying his white chocolate/raspberry swirl.
No one was hurt but there were a lot of frazzled people climbing over eachother.

There were several cases of kids getting caught in escalators in the old MBTA stations here in BOston. I remember the news stories. Apparently they somehow got gaught between the side of the escalator and the moving stairs. It could take off skin. I’m still not clear on the details.

But it’s a very real problem.

I’ve witnessed this kind of thing (suddenly stopped escalator) a couple of times, and I’ve been on one once when it happened. As abrupt as that feels, I’m surprised I’ve never seen anyone take a tumble, myself included.

Damn you, Snickers! I was going to make that reference!

I had a fairly substantial hiking-type boot “eaten” by an escalator at an airport once. I noticed my foot was stuck as the steps were coming down at the top. I managed to extract my foot before any personal damage was done, but the force was enough to split the sole just behind the toe all the way through, ruining the shoe (though at least it didn’t split on top so I didn’t have to deal with my toes dangling out for the rest of the trip). For some reason I can’t even remember what airport it was, but DFW seems most likely. It certainly was awhile ago, I make a point to wear sneakers when flying these days to make the security line easier. I was running late to catch my flight so I didn’t have the opportunity to complain to anyone.

in the early days of casino gambling, a friend of mine showed up for work in deli at Resorts and a woman had passed out cold on the escalator and her hair got caught. According to him, it was not a pretty scene.


I got my foot caught in one when I was 7 or 8. I was wearing a cheap pair of Chuck Taylors and had my toes propped up on the stair in front of me because I liked the way they came down with a “thud” when the stair moved down. Well, this time the stair took my foot with it. My dad grabbed me and yanked as I started yelling. A security guard got there right as the rubber ripped off the shoe.

I ended up getting a certificate from the mall good for a pair of shoes at any store in the mall. I got some nice Reebok Pumps that my parents would never, ever have bought me. If memory serves, I also had a couple small scratches on my foot. I’m still a bit scared of them, but use them when I need to.

Thank you all for the responses. The boy is doing fine; back to his usual frantic self and seemingly none the worse for wear. A few responses mentioned parental responsibility. I absolutely agree with this sentiment, as a rule. Escalators are a unique situation, though. My wife and our younger daughter (our girl is 3, the boy is 4 and a half) were on the step behind him, as there is not enough room for everyone to stand on one ‘stair’. He exited first, and his hand followed the rail towards the return before she even realized anything had happened. He just didn’t let go, for whatever reason. After thinking about it for a bit, I suppose one could just hold onto the hands of little ones as they ride, but then what is the purpose of the rails? Once you get used to them, they seem fine to me. I’m not so sure with the kids though, anymore. Either way, it seems you need to be ‘on your toes’ while riding these things…

(I also couldn’t help but think of the first ‘Crocodile Dundee’ movie, where he experiences an escalator for the first time. As the bottom approaches, he starts backing up and up, trying to avoid where the steps drop into the floor.)

When I was about 5 or 6, my sister who was about 14 or 15 got her shoelace caught in that rake-like thing at the end of an escalator, and it nearly broke her ankle. She ended up with a severe sprain, on crutches for a while. I remember Mom had to physically drag Sis away from the escalator. I’ve been terrified of those machines ever since.