Metro dangers: Escalators eat shoes, especially flip-flops

With the wrong shoes, Metro escalators can become dangerous. (Photo by Brownpau/ Flickr)

A review of Metro incident reports by ABC7 found the vast majority of injuries on escalators come from slips, trips and falls.

The data shows that what riders wear could put them in danger. ABC7’s Kris van Cleave found dozens of incidents were people got caught in escalators because their clothing was hanging down. Particularly during the summer, shoes can be a risk, too.

About once a week someone loses a shoe to a metal piece at the bottom of an escalator called a comb plate. Usually a flip flop, plastic croc or soft-soled flat shoe is the type of shoe that gets stuck in the machinery.

“It was just a pair of shoes I'd wear if it was hot out, I never thought of it as a dangerous object to be wearing,” Dashiane Drakeford said about her crocs.

Metro rider Cherly Aaron also said she gives little thought to safety when putting on shoes. “The only thought I have is how comfortable I am when I'm walking, that's pretty much it,” Aaron said.

Rider Michelle Wilde said her two pairs of “commuting shoes” are both closed toe, offering some safety from shoe-eating comb plates.

When its especially hot, shoes with a soft rubber sole can be a problem.

“This soft rubber gets even softer (in the heat), it sinks a little bit in the stair tread,” explains Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “It creates an opportunity for this to go right under the comb plate.”

Stessel recommends riders don’t run on the escalators and plant their feet away from the edge. If they are wearing sandals, he says to up over the comb plate when walking off the escalator.

In addition to riders with potentially dangerous footwear, there are those who use escalators as playgrounds. A video uploaded to YouTube shows Metro riders engaged in an activity called planking.

In the video, a man is seen jumping onto the space between two escalator handrails, one going up and one going down, and rotating his body around with the help of the moving rails. A second man follows suit.

“When we saw that video, it was just jaw dropping to us, how anyone could be so reckless with their own personal safety is astounding,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.