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Two random thoughts about London

Just got back from a few days in London and there were two random thoughts I’ve wanted to share. Neither are new, but they popped into my head during this trip and I thought, “maybe I should blog about those,” so here we are.

Thing # 1: We all know they drive on the left side of the road in the UK. This isn’t surprising anymore. What is surprising, to me at least, is every time you encounter a situation where pedestrian traffic is routed to the right. For instance, on all the escalators in the tubes it tells you to stand to the right and pass on the left. This is what we do in the US which makes it seem very wrong in the UK. Also, when you walk the streets in New York it’s a fairly standard rule that traffic stays right. In the UK I feel like you constantly see people on both sides of the sidewalk walking both directions. All of this makes me think that people naturally want to stay to the right (probably because most are right-handed). I have no idea whether this is true or not (I’m also not sure whether British folks will find this offensive, in which case I apologize). I just think you’ve got to pick one and stick to it. You wouldn’t find a random escalator or walkway in a high-traffic zone in the US where there are signs directing traffic to stay left.

Thing # 2: One of the things I really like about London is how much ground floor commercial space there is. In New York City the ground floor is almost entirely retail and office work happens somewhere between the 2nd and 100th floor. I’m not sure why I like looking in at people working, but there’s something really interesting about walking past an office window during the day. It’s just not a view you really get in New York. (I’d say this has something to do with the fact that we’re looking for a new office so I’m especially keen to see how other’s deal with their space, but this has fascinated me since well before I started a company.)

Alright, that’s it. Two very random observations.

December 15, 2012 // This post is about: , ,


  • Baakanit says:

    I was there for the first time two weeks and notice those things you pointed out. I found also interesting that most cars drive right in the middle of the narrow streets and when somebody is approaching they move to the left.

  • joe says:

    Interesting random observations. First up I think you mean escalators not elevators, and if you meant elevators, well we’d call them lifts. Anyway. Back to my thoughts. “Walk on the left, stand on the right” is the direction given, and I actually think that kind of makes sense, we move forward on the left hand side on our roads, and on our escalators we also move forward on the left. I think it’s your interpretation of the ‘pass on the left’ equivalent that you have on your roads, the fast lane being on the left hand side, but you usually find people get into their lanes at the bottom and stick to them. Making it more a walk vs. don’t walk kind of affair, hence the
    forwards left thing. realising now as I write there are plenty of counter arguments to this. I’ll not go into the whole which side is the right side, that’s something to do with violent societies and jousting and right handedness and peasants driving on the right hand side. Either way I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason to it in the end. Now our pavements are a complete muddle I’ll grant you that, it’s like that scene out of the matrix, but I don’t know if the walk on the left thing really seeps out onto the roads, pretty sure that’s just a London thing anyway, and as a Northerner I can vouch for the same sort of criss-crossed pedestrianism you experience in London. Either way I like your observations and I raise you: Drink that Brits consume lots of = Vodka Coke, Drinks Americans think the craziest thing in the world = Vodka Coke. American’s generic liquor = Vodka, American’s generic mixer = coca cola. Go figure??

  • Justin Kalifowitz says:

    Ground floor office space is a dream. Percolate’s next office should absolutely have a coffee shop in the front half of the space and offices in the back. Anyway, the other bit I don’t quite understand about New York City is why floors 2+ are so rarely used for restaurants. I understand the argument for why retail doesn’t work on the second floor, but in most other crowded cities (esp Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong) they have floors and floors of restaurants, reserving ground space for retail and office space. Is there an issue with the building or health codes that prevent higher-floor restaurants? Surely they would demand higher rents than residential and possibly other types of commercial tenants.

  • Eric says:

    [catching up on RSS so I’m a bit late but commenting anyway]

    On point 1, when I visited New Zealand ten years ago, I ran into people for the first several days, because when I approached someone, my default was to go right, whereas their default was to go left, so we ran into each other. I eventually adjusted to go left, and it all worked out fine (until I came back to the US).

    Another story – at my Safeway in Menlo Park several years ago, I used to always walk in the Exit door. Always. And it took me a few weeks to figure out that it was because they put the Exit door on the right (Entrance on the left) to try to guide traffic flow (the Exit door was closer to the checkout lanes). It screwed me up because it wasn’t consistent.

    Good observations on consistency – I just wanted to add my stories :)

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