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Important reason behind the grooves on escalator stairs

Important reason behind the grooves on escalator stairs

They keep us safe whilst we're on the moving walkway.

Escalators are everywhere from shopping malls to large office buildings and they all look pretty much the same.

They were interesting when you first went on them as a child, carrying you from one floor to the next.

Well here's something you've probably never stopped to question, what do the grooves do on escalators?

Here's a hint, they're not just for show.

It turns out those grooves serve a more functional purpose than you originally thought - a sweet combination of cleanliness and safety.

Anyone who has ridden the moving walkway knows that the steps circulate from the top to the bottom.

Hinterhaus Productions/Getty
Hinterhaus Productions/Getty

Once you reach the top, there's a ridged yellow edge to make sure you step off at the right time - and a sign of caution to those in sandals.

As the steps flatten out at the top, the ridge (also known as a comb plate) acts almost like a little broom, sweeping away any litter or rubbish that might have fallen on the steps.

Those grooves help by locking the step and comb plate together, allowing the steps to feed back into the machine more easily.

This function makes it harder for any materials to slide underneath the lip and cause potential problems to the escalator such as a stall, malfunction or worse, break down completely.

Think of it like a paper jam in a photocopier - flat steps would make it easier for objects to slip through and get caught in the mechanism.


While we're not yet at the point where escalators can dispose of trash automatically, the design does help to push litter aside effectively.

However, that doesn't mean it's okay to litter, it’s still up to us to dispose of our trash properly.

Another smart aspect of the grooves is their role in drainage.

Despite the countless videos you'll find on YouTube of people falling on escalator stairs, the grooves were created to channel away any spilt liquids and prevent any slips or falls.

So there you have it. The grooves are more than just decoration, they're there for your safety. Next time you're on an escalator, remember they have a major purpose in keeping you upright on your way to your office meeting and preventing an awkward topple-over.

Featured Image Credit: Hinterhaus Productions/RapidEye/Getty