On my way home from the drugstore, I, as usual, went through the railway station to cross the tracks. On the second floor of the station, there is a combined waiting area and walkway over the station’s platforms.
Traffic was light at this time of day, so I swiftly passed the waiting area and entered the escalator downwards to the street level. At the bottom, a woman stepped onto the upward-moving escalator with an old and presumably heavy bicycle – at least it was too heavy for the middle-aged woman entering the escalator.
Almost immediately, she lost control of her bike and fell onto the stairs as the bike got stuck between the sides of the escalator. She made a nasty somersault forwards-upwards under the bike and started desperately yelling for help.
I was perhaps halfway down on my side and caught eye contact with a younger woman who was about to enter the escalator behind the yelling woman. Now, the young woman stopped, waiting for me to arrive at the ground floor. What should we do?
Escalators have emergency brakes on both the upper and lower level. I had never looked for the emergency brakes on this escalator and, to my surprise, could not find any. Fortunately, the woman had somehow managed to get back on her feet again and had almost reached the upper end of the escalator. Thus, it was not necessary to stop the escalator for the woman’s personal safety.
I decided to release the bicycle without stopping the escalator, a task I found a bit unusual as I was moving upwards while yanking the bicycle to get it off the grip of the moving stairs. I was lucky to immediately solve the problem; otherwise, I could have been stuck between the bicycle and the stairs, risking a somersault backwards down the escalator and hitting the steel stairs.
Instead, I was able to deliver the bike to the shocked woman at the top of the stairs. The younger woman picked up the shoes which the first woman had lost during the bizarre somersault. The older woman thanked her for the shoes, put them back on her feet, and began to walk away from the escalator. I asked if she was okay, she nodded and said she had to leave. She was shaken, but probably even more embarrassed by her clumsiness and wanted to leave the station as quickly as possible.
I should perhaps have insisted that she sit down and take a short rest, but I didn’t. I went back down to the ground floor by the escalator, where I could now look for any emergency brakes. Indeed, without the stressful situation, I could find the sign pointing out where to find the stop button. The sign had been covered by the bike, and it was very difficult (especially under stress) to find the stop button itself, located under the escalator.
We were lucky that this bike incident didn’t end in a minor catastrophe with injuries such as broken legs or concussions. Hopefully, the woman will use the elevator next time she has to cross the railway.
This was a strange accident, but it is actually the second time I have seen a woman lose control of her bike while travelling on the escalator at my local railway station.
(This story was slightly improved by Chat GPT4. The illustration was made by Bing Image Generator with the prompt: Sketch of two parallel escalators. A woman is lying with her bike at the bottom of one of the escalators.)