London Underground is littered with escalators, and following the Kings Cross Disaster the old wooden models were replaced with safer, if less aesthetically pleasing versions.

So it is with some alarm that I read in one of my science RSS feeds that injuries caused by escalators have doubled between 1991 and 2005. Admittedly, this is in America so allowance has to be taken for the red-necks getting confused – but it does make you wonder why injuries have gone up.

Using U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine found nearly 40,000 older adults were injured on escalators between 1991 and 2005. The results of the study are published in the March 2008 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Are escalators breeding at an alarming rate so that more people use them – are people becoming more infirm and unable to cope with the rigours of these modern devices?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Incidentally, why are escalators usually just a bit too wide for a person to stand in the middle and hold onto both side rails – but too narrow for people walking up them to get past the stationary lot without invariably knocking a dozen elbows and bags on the way up?

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