The unwritten rules of commuting


Becky and I often wonder why people behave so oddly on our commutes and so we decided to suggest some rules for commuting … (with input from Charlie and Ruth on Twitter – Thanks!)

Bear in mind if you break them you almost certainly will be the subject to a Facebook status or a tweet.

General tips:

1. Be polite if possible

2. Remember we’re all in it together. Yes it is stressful but if you had to get up at six to do this chances are so did everyone else.

3. Follow your transport company on Twitter. They will give you the most up to date advice and some (Southern) are quite funny too.

4. Follow other commuters who make the same journey as you on Twitter.

5. Things WILL go wrong. It isn’t always the transport company’s fault. Remember this and be thankful they are trying to get you on your way.

6. When things go wrong (if it is offered) claim back your rail fare. If you aren’t sure ask.

All modes of transport

1. We do not want to hear your music. Especially if it is Westlife. Buy some decent headphones and turn the volume down.

2. If you are reading a newspaper try and keep it within your own seat area.

3. Don’t read a broadsheet on public transport (see above)

4. If you are having a text conversation turn your phone to silent.

5. If you decided (stupidly) to travel in rush hour with a child put them on your lap or make several children share seats.

The platform:

1. People have their own spots and you must take this into consideration when new to a platform. If you are new to this, hang around at the back of platform, assess the space and get on the train last.

2. If you are the last one to arrive at the platform DO NOT try and push on the train before the people who have been waiting there before you.

3. If it is an overground or mainline train you are required to press the button to open the door. The person who does this should get on the train first – after all you wouldn’t be getting on the train so quickly without them.

4. Let people off the train first (come on, this is common sense but some people choose to ignore this)

Image by MichelKuik via Flickr

On the (overground/mainline) train:

1. When you get on the train don’t block the aisle whilst taking five minutes to take your coat off, neatly fold it and place it in the overhead shelf. Then another 5 minutes to unpack your belongings neatly in front of you. See all those people in a line glaring at you when there are empty seats? YOU ARE CAUSING THAT QUEUE. (Same applies with prolonged getting off the train).

2. If there is a spare seat next to the window don’t be a plonker and sit on the aisle seat. It’s annoying for all involved; someone has to ask to sit down, you have to move to let them in, you then have to sit down again. Certainly don’t sigh when someone asks to sit in the window seat. (Caveat: sit in the aisle seat if you are very tall or if you are only going one stop as this may be less disruptive – but still don’t moan when people want to sit in the window seat).

3. If you are sitting in the aisle seat you don’t take all the middle arm rest – you have plenty of space in the aisle. Don’t be greedy.

4. A key one – don’t invade others space – you paid for one ticket, you only get one seat.

5. Your case does not deserve a seat. It is grubby and seats are for people. If you are worried about it stand with it.

6. Don’t argue with loved ones on the phone – its embarrassing for all involved. Especially for you when you realise everyone is giggling and gossiping about you. (Same applies with flirting).

7. Don’t spread confidential papers across the table or make confidential phone calls. I know a lot about court cases, CVs, disciplinary actions, deals and planned take overs from the train.

8. Staring at the people who got on further down the line and therefore have seats will not make them get up and let you have the seat.

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...
Image via Wikipedia

Tube trains:

1. Same platform rules apply for regular commuters.

2. Personal hygiene – now this is an important one; take note. Tubes get very hot when crowded and even more so in summer. Do not reach up to hold onto bars if you suspect there is any chance of a slight smell of sweat patch.

3. For us space efficient people out there this is the worse possible thing. I would rather you tried your best to balance and occasionally fall over rather than be unhygienic.

4. If you feel unwell – get off the bloody train. No-one wants to be the one who holds up the entire underground line whilst they remove you off the train.

5. Please bring odd items on the tube – it creates great amusement for us other passengers. Did you know there is a twitter account and website dedicated to you people?!

6. When travelling on any mode of transport hold on (remembering an earlier rule). You know what happens to those who don’t. You fall over that’s what. You travel everyday – you know this happens.


1. Stand to the bloody right!! That’s all I have to say on the matter!

Wheely suitcases:

1. If you have one – wheel it properly. It’s not hard. Oh and think about where you stop. Stopping dead in the middle of the station or platform isn’t the best idea in the world!

2.If you are a regular wheely suitcase user – invest in a four wheel one.

3. Do not wheel it off escalators – it never works and it always ends up wheeling out of control. I’m thinking of you here – people WILL tut!!

4. Your wheely suitcase is behind you. Do not forget this as you wheel it over peoples toes.

Remember the words of Lao-Tzu “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

Other Useful Posts / Links:

Thanks again to the wonderful Becky Hill for her great work on her first guest / co-authored post!


Following publication of this post we have had several additions suggested (if you have more please feel free to comment):

1. If you block the door don’t get funny when people want to get off.

2. When using a laptop that doesn’t mean you can take up the whole table.

3. Don’t tap your laptop keys loudly (buy and iPad and this is no longer a problem)

4. I  had one guy hang his coat on the hook by the window seat..I was sitting there! Coat in my face for entire journey, not happy!!

5. When standing in the aisle take off your rucksack, don’t bash me in the face with it!  < This happens a lot. Several people suggested it

6. When you are on the train toVictoria DO NOT stand up ready to get off as soon as you pass Clapham Junction – you have 5 minutes.

7. If you are in the aisle seat don’t wait until you are at the destination to pack up your belongings. Especially if the person in the window seat has their coat, hat, scarf and gloves on.

8. Don’t stretch your legs out under the table if someone is sitting opposite you.

9. On the bus DO NOT sit on someone < apparently this happens

10. On the bus (and there is room) if you get on do not stop in the aisle move on or upstairs.

11. If you don’t have a book / newspaper / iPad/ computer / phone /other form of entertainment staring at the person opposite is not ok.

12. Don’t put your bag on the seat to stop people sitting there. We will ask you to move it even if there are empty seats.

13. Do not listen to music without headphones

14. When someone needs to get off the bus and you are on the aisle, twisting yourself slightly to allow them off will not do. Step up and let them off. Chances are neither of you are slim enough to allow this manoeuvre to work.

15. Don’t take someone’s Metro (or other newspaper) until at least 10 seconds have passed since they have put it down and generally it is polite to ask “Have you finished with that?”

It was also pointed out that people who can’t read the sign to stand on the right on the escalator probably won’t read this but here’s hoping a bit of politeness may come to commuting … a lot of people have the same annoynaces!

Feel free to add more to the comments!


When Twitter comes into its own

Twitter is the answer to travel nightmares. I remember thinking this last November in the snow and today this was confirmed. From sometime this morning there was widespread travel chaos across the Southern network caused by a flood and then a landslide.

Landslide at Croydon - via First Capital Connect

Landslide from slightly different angle - via Southern

Looking at the live departures on Southern’s website it was clear that we would not be going anywhere south of Croydon this evening. Then Tweets confirmed that there were huge delays at Gatwick and the rail replacement bus services were overwhelmed. Before Twitter I could only have guessed this but through my network I had people updating me from all over the place. I knew the Eastbourne and Brighton lines were both impossible to get down. The national rail website only told me all the trains were cancelled and I needed to find alternative trains. It made no suggestion of what these trains were.

So I looked at other routes, using my own local knowledge combined with confirmation from Southern that Southeastern were accepting tickets. I realised if I could get to Tunbridge Wells I could get a bus that stopped practically outside my flat. So I left work and headed to Charing Cross.

Emerging from the underground I heard an announcement that no trains were travelling between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells due to a lineside fire. Tonbridge is the town before Tunbridge Wells. This was not good news. I then saw a tweet from @southernrailuk saying I should go on this route. I replied to them and told them there were problems. My response was retweeted by people living near me.

After encountering flood, landslide and fire I  laughed at a tweet from @angefitzpatrick suggesting that she wouldn’t be surprised if all replacement bus services were cancelled due to Godzilla. I wouldn’t have been surprised either!

I then had a text from my friend Catherine saying she was on a train to Ramsgate and getting off at Tonbridge, the guard on the train said that the trains still weren’t going through to Tunbridge Wells but should be soon. So I hopped on the next train to Tunbridge Wells in the hope it would get me home.

While I tweeted about my journey I had a message from someone else on the same train asking how to get from Tunbridge Wells to Lewes. I also spoke to some people around me who were trying to get to Uckfield and Lewes. They were impressed that I had information from Twitter. Through Twitter and my friend on the train in front I was able to both be informed and keep people informed. A group of random people became connected. I was also buoyed up by tweets from friends wishing me luck on my journey and really impressed by Southern’s own use of Twitter. They replied to my tweets. This included an apology after I tweeted them an update on the journey.

Tweet from SouthernI was able to check bus times on my ipad and tweet them. We arrived at Tunbridge Wells just after 6:45 and the bus came on time at 6:58. I’m sure he doesn’t normally have quite so many people going to Lewes at that time.

The journey through the highways and byways of Kent and Sussex was speedy and a bit of a white knuckle ride but an hour later I was getting off the bus just by my flat. It was almost 4 hours after I left work (thirty minutes early) and I was over an hour and a half late home but because the delays were so bad I didn’t mind so much.

It’s times like this people muse why I commute. It’s simple, I get to live in the best place in the world. Delays like today are very rare and they are so bad there’s nothing anybody can do about it. It wasn’t Southern’s fault that a watermain burst and then there was a landslide. The fire was just so surreal that I was waiting for a plague of locusts to delay the bus.

So, yet again, if anyone asks why you should join Twitter tell them that it is the best way of finding out what is going on and should fire and brimstone rain down on your journey home nothing beats it to help you get on your way. Or as @archelina said “twitter f***ing rocks in a travel crisis”. Couldn’t have put it better myself!


This morning I caught my usual 6:51 train and over heard a couple of commuters talking about their horrendous journeys home. It was clear they hadn’t used Twitter and had been in the dark about what was going on. If you are a commuter then sign up to twitter, follow @SouthernRailUK and @NRE_Southern (or the relevant ones in your area) also follow other people from your area. I was home 2 hours before the people who hadn’t used Twitter!

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