SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Korea Bizwire) – On November 17, Seoul announced that it will convert a number of upward escalators at the exits of subway stations to head downwards.
The city named four stations on subway lines 6 and 7 where the changes will be made on an initial trial basis. The stations are: Jeungsan, Mangwon, Suraksan and Ujangsan.
Citing the principles of universal design – a term denoting ideas for designing buildings with higher accessibility to those with disabilities or the elderly – a city official said in January, “In subway stations without escalators, there have been some discussions that descending stairs rather than climbing causes more harm, in ways like damaging the cartilage in knees or weakening the crucial ligaments.”
According to published figures, 141 of the 156 escalators in subway stations move upwards, a figure that will soon change, provided Seoul’s initiative gains widespread acceptance.
There is some evidence to suggest that the idea may take some time to take root, as aversion to the change has been voiced from different segments of society.
A spokesperson for the Korean Senior Citizens Association, the largest organization for seniors in the country, said, “Climbing stairs is rather exhausting. If [the government] were to poll the elderly, it will not find many who are in agreement with the plan.”
A member of another seniors group shared his disagreement with the escalator initiative. “Going down the stairs is much more convenient, as people with bad knees or seniors can take the elevators in the station,” he said.
Criticism has also been generated by men’s rights communities, where talk of the escalators elicits responses like “why do we have to use descending escalators just for women?”
Their indignation is somewhat justified, only in that the city considers increasing the number of descending escalators to possibly help some women. A city official said, “A woman who is short or is wearing heels will have to bend her knees at a greater angle, putting more pressure on them, as the stairs will be relatively steeper.” The official added that the decision to alter some escalators was not only to accommodate women, but to aid a diverse range of people who need assistance.
Meanwhile, there were others who viewed the experiment as a worthwhile endeavor. One commuter at Mangwon Station said, “If it is going to be tested first, then I’m all for it. It is true that walking down the stairs puts a greater strain on your knees.”
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)