Train Etiquette: 10 Rules of Riding the Rails

Poles Are for Safety, Not Fun
An acrobat busts some moves for subway riders in New York. As part of NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton's crack-down on quality of life offenses, arrests of these performers quadrupled to 240 in July 2014, as compared to the same time in 2013. © Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis

You'll be sitting there on the subway, checking out Facebook on your smartphone, when all of a sudden someone yells, "Excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen!" Then there's a whoosh as a guy (it's usually a guy) races past you, grabs a safety pole or handle bar and performs a short acrobatic routine -- sort of like breakdancing on a pole. Clearly, this is not a good thing to do on a train rocketing 30, 40 or however many miles per hour down the tracks, especially if it's loaded with passengers. Sure, some people might enjoy the show. But what if the performer slips and careens into other passengers, namely infants, the disabled or the elderly? What if the train suddenly stops and the performer smashes his skull into the pole? Pole tricks are so rampant that New York's transit authority came out with a poster stating, "Poles Are For Your Safety. Not Your Latest Routine." Here's hoping it helps.

A less dangerous, but equally obnoxious practice is hogging the pole. That's when you lean against the whole pole as if you own it, disallowing anyone else to grab a spot. The purpose of the train pole is not for performing acrobatic moves, nor providing a comfortable back support – it's for steadying yourself when standing on a moving vehicle. With that in mind, use your hand to hold on to one section of the pole and make room for others to do the same.