I wanted to shift gears for a minute or two to talk about how much I despise escalators.
Escalators, in my opinion, are one of the worst influences on humankind. They systematically institutionalize and legitimize laziness on a massive scale. My distaste for escalators exists on several levels, which I will briefly outline in this post.
My first concern is that people are lazy and fat. Many doctors have raised alarm about childhood obesity, about heart disease and diabetes, and about the health effects of inactivity; many thousands of column inches have been devoted to health risks associated with obesity, to decreasing time spent exercising, to foods that are unhealthy, to diet tips, to exercise regimens, and so on. All of this rhetoric is pure posturing as long as we continue to legitimate laziness by installing escalators, automatic doors and moving sidewalks. Local governments are touting human-powered transportation as a saving grace in the face of the environmental crisis; Vancouver, for example, wants to see bicycles count for 10 percent of all trips taken by its citizens by 2010. But how can they honestly expect that to happen when they legitimate laziness by installing escalators, automatic doors and moving sidewalks? The Guidelines and Protocols Advisory Committee under the Medicare Protection Act states that “obesity and physical inactivity has been increasing in all ages and is a major contributor to chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and kidney disease”; they recommend that all doctors discuss with their patients the importance of healthy eating and regular physical activity:
Learning new behaviour around eating and exercise is like learning a new language-it takes time (up to 4 years or more), practice, and requires ongoing support and encouragement from a hopeful, empathetic and informed care provider.
Installing escalators does exactly the opposite of what the GPAC recommends; escalators discourage physical activity, undermine physicians’ recommendations, and are championed by people who are hopeless, malicious and uninformed. Escalators should be outlawed under the Medicare Protection Act.
Escalators send people the message that it’s okay to be lazy. That walking up a flight of stairs really is too much to ask. These messages are false. Walking up a flight of stairs is not only necessary to keeping the human body in working order, but it’s the least we can ask of someone who spends the rest of the day motoring around in a Ford F-150 while the heat is on at home. CBC’s One Million Acts of Green makes no mention of taking the stairs, nor does David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge. But how many billions of barrels of oil are wasted by having 30 000 escalators running all the time in the United States alone? Why are we building new dams and new power plants and new oil rigs instead of eliminating the world’s escalators? This is a serious question. An article in Elevator World suggests that the escalators in the United States alone use as much energy as 375000 homes, and the US accounts for less than 10 percent of the escalators worldwide.
The disturbing trend nowadays is to design buildings with no stairs at all! At the downtown campus of SFU, the only way to get to the second level is via the escalator, featured prominently in the middle of the foyer like some kind of grotesque trophy of laziness. There are emergency stairwells, sure, but they’re alarmed, so off limits even to conscientious objectors to the escalator craze. Most buildings that do have stairs available hide them in some dark corner and leave them to accumulate filth and rot, while the escalator, out in the middle of the building, gets routine checkups whenever it needs a new bearing or a drop of oil.
Some of you may be wondering about the elderly and the infirm. They need escalators, don’t they? No! That’s what elevators are for. There are no needs that aren’t met by a flight of stairs and an elevator. Tall buildings? Sure, take the elevator. Going down from the landing into the main area of the department store? Use the stairs, you lazy bastard.
Do yourself, and the world, a favor next time you see an escalator: take the stairs instead. Lobby your city planners to outlaw escalators. Write David Suzuki and George Stroumboulopoulos and the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and tell them all to do the same. If you ever catch yourself riding the escalator again, look at yourself in the mirror with disgust and revulsion: you are too lazy to walk up a flight of stairs. What are you going to do when you’re sixty? Eighty? How good is your body going to feel then? People who ride escalators should be ashamed and embarassed by their own behaviour.