Keep left—at your peril

Disembark a Central Line train at Liverpool Street station. Take the easternmost exit from the platforms—at the front of the train if you’re travelling east; the back if you’re travelling west. On leaving the platforms, board one of the escalators that take you back towards the middle of the train.

Upon getting through the exit barriers, there will be an underground concourse, after which you will see a thoroughfare to your left and one to your right. Take the one to your left. It will take you up a couple of flights d stairs before bringing you out on the main train station concourse.

This thoroughfare is the Tube traveller’s equivalent to the short road outside the Savoy. It is, to my knowledge, the only thoroughfare that requires its users to walk on the right as opposed to the left.

I say requires. Its signage points its users to keep to the left, irrespective of their direction of travel. I( love the rotational symmetry of this message, but that’s by the by.) But the modus operandi of 98% of its users is, bizarrely, to keep right. And if your sense of self-preservation outweighs your need to obey orders, you’ll follow the crowd. Believe me: I’ve tried to obey the signs and have been met with indignation that has more than outweighed my own, picking up a few bruises along the way. It’s simply not worth it.

I have no idea why the thoroughfare has evolved this way. But it has. And in spite of its signage, I expect it will always be the rebellious child of the Underground.


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