No sliding

Handrail spikes at Highbury & Islington station, London
Handrail spikes at Highbury & Islington station, London

These spikes are embedded every couple of feet in the hand-rails of a staircase at Highbury & Islington station in London, presumably to prevent kids (or adults) sliding down them. They’re not especially sharp, but would bruise someone pretty badly.

Note that there are also additional stainless steel hand-rails – this staircase may have replaced an escalator, and the rubberised rails may be the original escalator ones, with the spikes added much more recently.


  1. Fez

    You see these all over the place. I remember when i was younger it amused me that the effort the owners went to must have meant it was a real problem. But at the same time couldn’t believe how they could be such “kill-joys”.

  2. Some non-escalator staircases have spikes at the bottom – which simply require a more skillful exit than otherwise.

    I wonder how much of it is to avoid being sued because of umpteen broken coccyxes of less skilful sliders an their incompetent landings, vs their collisions with passers by?

    Another fun thing is demonstrating in the rush hour when the up escalator is empty and the down escalators and stairs are full-up, that the up escalator can also be used to descend (you can generally overtake the walkers descending via the stairs). A good rhythmic stride can be developed stepping down two escalator steps at a time. You only have to gamble that a train doesn’t unload at the bottom before you get there – and a bunch of Japanese tourists who don’t understand ‘stand on the left’ get on (it takes time for Japs to come to an agreement as to whether to adopt Tokyo or Osaka rules).

    NB ‘Stand on the left’ – one of the few controls that the public will self-police.

  3. Ben

    And the signs in the wider section between stairways with the “Stand on the right” text in the middle also show you a message and prevent you from sliding down the middle. Although they’re only spaced every 30? feet or so, IIRC from my time in London. Saw a friend do it once, on the free 30 or so feet after the last sign and before the end of the escalator. They’re also for safety I would say; some escalators on the Tube are quite long on an incline, in case you somehow manage to fall our of the escalator >:-)

    Also on the hand-rails, notice how the landings make the handrails nothing nice and continuous to slide down either, as they get a nice sawtooth pattern.

  4. Ham

    This is probably not a bad idea… kiljoy as it may be. Several years ago a good friend of mine, out on a night of boozing in London, took advantage of the lack of such barriers to go for a ride. Here’s an excerpt from the wonderful email he wrote me at the time (sorry in advance for the long comment):

    …But as we all bought our tube tickets at London Bridge station and were slowly descending the escalator to the tracks, a friend of mine noticed that the stainless steel median between the two staircases was entirely smooth, that is, that someone had removed the usual hemispheric obstacles that usually block passengers from sitting between escalators. (They seem to have been removed since several screw-holes were bored into the surface every foot or so). Whether my friend encouraged me subconsciously, or whether I had precisely the same intuition at precisely the same moment, I was soon climbing onto the median and rocketing downwards, wool-silk on steel reducing friction to nil. Many of my friends in front saw a grayblack phantom shoot by at an alarming pace and it all must have looked wonderful from their perspecting. It was thrilling, if brief, only I failed to notice the large metal sign positioned at the very bottom of the escalator. Impact, somersault, impact. I landed on my head not far from the foot of the staircase opposite and immediately stood up, raising my arms to enormous cheering from what sounded like most of the station; unfortunately, my glory was cut short as I quickly lost consciousness. When I woke up, several other Marshalls were holding me up (is that what Heaven’s like?) and speaking to me in some strange foreign language that resolved itself with time into English. Despite the pain in my leg and the blood streaming from the base of my skull I figured I was fine and, moreover, that we should continue on to our friend’s house in south London. We did, and I had a truly wonderful time with the others despite the now searing pain in my leg (head had clotted up since); evening became early morning and we all slept at John Malik’s on the Chelsea Embankment.

    I woke up the next morning to tremendous pain in my hip and head though some of this was relived by a hot bath. After a civilised breakfast, John, Jason and myself all decided it might be worthwhile to visit the hospital – soon we were at the Chelsea and Westminster (flagship of the NHS) casualty ward winking at the nurses between moans and trying to convince this beautiful Polish tourist she should come up to Leamington some time. To make a long story short, seven hours later the head of orthopaedics told me I had broken my pelvis in two places and received a nasty concussion on my second impact (with floor).

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