diamond geezer

 Saturday, September 19, 2015

There used to be just one message.

Now there are two.

TfL have taking to slapping down an additional sign near the platform edge, at certain stations, warning customers of the danger in a rather different way.

Caution Gap

It's not as catchy a slogan as Mind The Gap, but that's not the point. What's more important is whether it gets the message across. I wonder what you think.

'Caution' is a familiar word, and sends a clear warning that something close by is hazardous. 'Mind' remains a much easier word to read, but isn't as strong, and also has more alternative meanings, so might not be well understood by visitors to our capital.

Also, see how on the new sign 'Gap' has been written in the largest type because it's the most important word. Passengers are being made fully aware of the hazard before they attempt to board the train, even though they can't see the gap until the train arrives.

But the really new thing here is the picture. It took me a few seconds to work out precisely what the graphic showed, so I'll give you another chance to look...

...and yes, it's somebody leaping onto a train without minding the gap. The sticky out bit on the left is obviously a platform, the shapes on the right are obviously a train, and the red arrow in the middle is obviously the gap. You got that, obviously.

The train took me the longest to spot. Most of it is off the edge of the sign, but that circle can only be a headlamp, and the triangle must be part of the front window. Perspective then suggests that the passenger is attempting to step directly into the driver's cabin, rather than into a carriage, which isn't generally recommended. And what's that thin diagonal line sticking out underneath? Presumably it's meant to be a rail, but surely no such rail would be visible if you were viewing the train head on (indeed if it were, a serious derailment would be imminent).

The platform appears as a cross section, which is not how passengers would generally visualise it. Perhaps more unhelpfully the edge of the platform overhangs, rather than being solid, which means there are two different horizontal gaps. The wider gap starts lower down beneath the platform edge, while higher up is the narrower gap our poor passenger is attempting to cross. Which is why there's a red arrow.

The red arrow's interesting because, by filling the gap with a red arrow, there isn't a gap any more. In fact it's possible to view the sign as a man stepping onto a red ramp to board a train... which isn't dangerous at all. I'm wondering if the visual impact of the sign would have been greater if the arrow hadn't been there at all, because then we could have clearly seen that the man was about to plummet to his doom. Or maybe the red arrow usefully draws attention to the hazard itself, which would be unclear if the arrow were missing.

Whatever, you'll have noticed that Mind The Gap is still written along the edge of the platform. Nobody's planning to phase out this classic phrase, merely to add another reminder that stations are potentially dangerous places and we need to watch our step. If the extra sign helps to prevent careless injury, even once, surely that's a good thing.

Indeed there appears to be a spate of additional health and safety messages of late, with warning notices on vinyl mats being slapped down in various locations across the network. A popular message is Hold The Handrail, which has been recently placed at the foot of various banks of escalators (or even on the steps themselves), for example at Holborn. Passengers are being urged to hold the handrail on their way up, but interestingly not on the way down, which is always the direction in which I feel most unstable. Travelling up an escalator is fairly safe, isn't it, and rarely the cause of a tumble?

If indeed there is a TfL Department Of Additional Health And Safety Notices, testing out vinyl signs with a view to wider rollout, I wonder where this might lead next. Stand Clear Of The Doors. Let Passengers Off First. Keep Your Selfie Stick Behind The Yellow Line. Do Not Stand On This Mat. But if more safety signs are on their way, at least we can have fun working out what the pictures mean.

Sunday update: Here's another sighting, at Farringdon.

What were they thinking?

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