Unspoken rules of subway etiquette - the listeners have spoken!

Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 09:17 AM

All this month, we are looking at the unspoken rules of etiquette that, if followed, would make commuting in NYC pleasant - or at least more bearable.

Last week New York subway riders spoke out about what drives them crazy about traveling underground. Over 200 comments were posted on our website which we have reduced to a simple mantra:

‘Groom, but not on the subway, make room and make way!’

This picture was brought to our attention Priya George, friend of the show, who happened to be visiting the NYC transit museum the day we did our segment on subway etiquette

This picture was brought to our attention by Priya George, friend of the show, who happened to be visiting the NYC transit museum the day we did our segment on subway etiquette


And here are some of the most common rules that our listeners’ suggested to put this mantra into practice:


• Body odor is NOT appealing – bathe please! And yes, it’s nice to look your best but we don’t want to see what you need to do to get there, so….

• Absolutely no grooming on the subway. High on the disgust-factor list are:
o Nail clipping (there’s even one report of TOE-nail clipping)
o Nail polishing
o Make-up application
o Teeth flossing

• Spread eagle legs that take up more than one seat – you’re causing people to go insane! (gentlemen, it seems you’re the main culprits)
• Pole-leaners – where’s your backbone, you slouchers?
• Those of you who don’t remove your backpacks in a crowded subway – do you know how unpopular you are?
• When carrying shopping bags, a satchel, etc., put them on the floor, not in the seat beside you.
• No full-fold paper reading during rush hour
• Whose seat is it anyway? If a seat opens up directly in front of you, this means you have first dibs on that seat. You have the right to sit there yourself or give it to someone else. No one should sneak in without your permission.


• Push in to the middle of the carriage – do not block the doorways.
• Wait for people to get off before you get on please.
• Don’t cut people off who have been waiting on the platform before you.
• Don't stand in the stairwell leading down to the subway to talk on your cellphone.
• Don't stop once you reach the top of the subway stairs to look around.
• Don’t block the turnstiles while digging for your metro card.
• Keep moving in the subway station. Don’t dawdle at the top of stairs if you’re lost and don’t stop to check your voice mail to the detriment of everyone behind you.

• Give up your seat to pregnant ladies, the elderly and the disabled. Pretending to be asleep fools noone!
• The old rule for PDAs still stand – get a room!
• No spitting
• Coughing or sneezing? Use a hankie!
• Vulgar language is not acceptable
• Headphones are for a reason – dial it down.
• Eating smelly food and drinking hot drinks on the subway – not cool.
• Parenting your kids at the top of your voice – they’re not that cute to the rest of us.
• Apologize or say ‘excuse’ me when you smack someone with a bag, bump them or step on their feet. A kind acknowledgement of those around you, a small apology and a smile will go a long way.
• And a soft-hearted word from one harried veteran to another about naive and clueless non-natives who clog the subways: “Do not snort at out-of-towners or people doing something that bothers you: if you have a problem just tell them or if you do, don't wait until you are about to get off the train - that is lame.”


Some positive experiences listeners shared:
• I see people offer up seats all the time (A line uptown). just last nite a guy got up so I could sit since I was wearing high heels.
• As a white-haired old lady (76) in perfectly good health, I get a bit annoyed when people offer me their seat, ALTHOUGH I ADMIRE THEIR GOOD MANNERS AND SAY NO THANK YOU WITH A BIG SMILE.
• I have a six month-old baby, and I am continually amazed at how many people go out of their way to help me by giving me a seat in the subway or carrying my stroller for me. One guy was coming UP the stairs to the street and saw me preparing to come down into the 103rd street station. He turned around, carried my stroller back down, and even swiped his own card to get me through the turnstile and down the stairs to the platform. When I was pregnant, people regularly gave up their seats to me. To all of you out there who do things like this, THANK YOU!


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Comments [7]


Don't eat your chicken wings with duck sauce and then put it under the seat, licking your fingers and lips sloppily. We can smell it at the other end of the car.

Also I don't want to listen to your music just because you have a speak on your cel phone and you're a teenager. But I know this is falling on deaf ears.

Jun. 18 2009 05:24 PM
linda Griggs

Dang it. On the radio you said post comments about courtesy between all transportation types but I posted in the wrong spot.

Jun. 18 2009 01:44 PM
linda Griggs

I really hate it when people push their strollers in the bike lane and then glare at me when I ease past them because I'm too close.

Can't they read the picture????!!!! It's a bike lane!

Jun. 18 2009 11:47 AM

Drivers of Westchester Please learn to share the road and stop swearing at bikers they have a right to use it too.!

Bikers Learn to keep to the side of the road and you are not entitled to hog the road by riding in the middle of the lane to slow down traffic. Don't forget you are more vulnerable in a collision

Jun. 18 2009 11:14 AM
Lauryn Jackson

What can be done about using vulgarity on the buses. And what about bullying. A guy started to verbally attack me on the bus. (He was talking at the top of his voice on a cell phone, using all types of vulgarity. When I looked at him, with a expression of disdain for his choice of crude words) the verbal attacks started. He threaten to beat me up. I asked the bus driver to call the police. He said he had to call central office. They never picked up. So I received no help. If I had been physically attacked I would have just been beaten up with no help.

I too find a lot of people very nice on the bus and subway.

I have started saying hello to people who sit beside me or when I sit down next to them. Maybe this will make us all remember we are humans and neighbors on this small little island we call Brooklyn.

Jun. 18 2009 11:08 AM

I am a biker. I ride on the bike path in Westchester County that also has many families who walk this path. Basic bike etiquette should include :
Slowing down when coming up on pedestrians

Verbally warn them if you are passing

Pedestrians sharing the bike path should :

Avoid walking abreast occupying the whole path

Keep children under control as there are bikers who will travel too fast

Jun. 18 2009 11:06 AM
Emma Missouri

Not about Mass Transit.
Why do you keep calling the Republican Coup in Albany "a coalition." It is as much a coalition as the "coalition" Bush put together to execute his "Iraq War."
Let's call it what it is: A coup by Repulicans against the people of New York State who voted Democrats in. Espada, Jr. is a disgrace to the democratic process.

Jun. 18 2009 10:12 AM

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