Video of New Yorkers tripping on subway step

At Brooklyn's 36th Street subway stop, one of the steps is slightly higher than the others. This causes many many people to trip on their way up the stairs. Filmmaker Dean Peterson set up his camera to capture the stumbles. Concern trolls, get to your logins… (Paper)

UPDATE: And… the stairway is now closed.


  1. …apart from when the guy carrying a kid trips, almost smashing kids head on the steps…

      1. dangerous enough that they’ve closed the whole staircase to rip it out and replace!

          1. Tell me more about your habit to look at the ground while you walk.  Especially in circumstances where many people move at high density.

    1.  Obvious advice for anyone using stairs, use the mutha-frigging hand-rail!!! There weren’t any obvious shots of people tripping/slipping in the rain, but seriously people…

      1. use the mutha-frigging hand-rail!!!

        Are you on crack? You want me to touch the handrail in a public stairwell? Maybe when they install boxes of rubber gloves.

        1.  Maybe you should never ever go outside. One, to avoid dangerous steps. And two, to keep all the creepy crawlies from ruining an otherwise perfect day.

  2. And this is a perfect example of why building codes prescribe how much variation is allowed between the risers of steps. Get a little out of that range and people will surely trip.

    1. exactly “The dangerous step, it turns out, is a half-inch higher than the others. Stairway design guidelines call for risers to be a minimum of 6 inches and a maximum of 7 inches, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. The allowable variance is 3/8 of an inch. “

  3. I think New Yorkers impose an unacceptably unrealistic expectation of body image on poor impressionable children!  There should be a law forcing them to be as ugly as me!

    Wait, what’s with that step?

  4. One unit imperceptibly but dangerously inconsistent with all the others?   Must have been built by my coworkers.

  5. Gah! Same situation at the 30th Ave N/Q station in Queens, on the northwest staircase. Lawsuits in all five boroughs by the time this all shakes out…

  6. So make a stencil and spray paint “caution, dangerous step” on the riser for that step, to keep people from hurting themselves.  Or just video people tripping and profit from their trouble instead.

    1.  If there are a number of people on the stairs, they may not see a warning on the step itself, perhaps need to paint the entire step a different colour.

    1. I am also super interested what the ratio of trippers to non-trippers is, and whether there’s any patterns in their behavior. Do distractions make you more prone to trip? Looking forward or watching your feet? Sole thickness? Height or gait? How does the ratio change as the variation in step height grows? Is it impossible to climb a staircase blindfolded where every step has a different height?

      This clearly needs some grant money because there is a strong smell of science in the air.

      1.  That guy with the phone sure took a while to recover (video obviously doesn’t show Every tripee)

      1.  I’ve tripped going up the same flight of stairs in my old house, just by not paying enough attention to the really steep elevation while thinking about something else.

    1.  I noticed that too. I think it is sort of unconsciously we are proving we are capable of going up steps, the trip wasn’t our fault, even going so far as to intentionally increase the difficulty level by increase the speed.

      1. One quickens after a trip in order to get oneself under ones weight again, correcting. On an upstep this becomes somewhat clumsy, requiring more quickening.

    2.  I was wondering the same thing. Is it some sort of natural body response, capitalizing on the sudden acceleration to remove ourselves from the “dangerous” situation quickly? Or is it an attempt to make the initial stumble appear intentional?

      Whatever the reason, it seems to be pretty deeply ingrained. So much so that by the time one realizes one is doing it, it’s too late to avoid or analyze. Kinda like the loud, pointless exclamations we make when we fall off a curb.

      Or like, when the cop asks us if we have drugs in the car, & (regardless of preparedness or IQ) we invariably say, “Huh?”  ‘Cause, you know, if we pretend we didn’t understand, he just won’t ask again…

    3. Momentum, or in my case Joe-mentum. Snicker. We’re trying to absorb the forward motion by getting our legs under ourselves. You can see more extreme examples of this when a big person is knocked off balance, sometimes they can run 20 feet before actually falling down.

      1. If you’re headed down a steep slope, it seems much easier to balance if you move really fast.

      1.  I think there are two effects here. One is the regaining-balance thing, yes.

        But re-watch the video.

        Once people have regained their balance, do they, on average, tackle the remainder of the stairs more slowly and carefully?

        1. Agreed. Ultimately it’s all about recovery. First our balance, then our dignity.

  7.  I agree I thought the same thing. Why is it that some folks have no problem and others trip. Something is going here!

    1. Yeah, I never understood why the majority of smokers just didn’t quit the way I and later my uncle in law did: Buy simply not smoking anymore with no apparent effects.

  8. I’m a builder, and keeping riser heights consistent is incredibly important. Usually though the different step height is right at the top, because the builder planned for one thickness of finished floor and a different one was installed, or the framer wasn’t paying attention and did not allow for the finished floor thickness. It is extremely rare to have a riser in the center of the run be different from the rest.  I’m not even clear on how this could happen. But I do know that a 1/4 inch variation can be difficult to navigate. 

  9. From the article agrovista linked to above:
    “The repair cannot be limited to one stair riser; the entire stairway will need to be refurbished,’ Ortiz said in an email to NBC 4 New York. ”

    If the step below the tall one is the correct height, they can add an eighth-inch skim layer to that one and bring both within spec.

  10. Many years ago I watched the special features on the DVD for the film Rules of Engagement. It was filmed in Morocco and like most non-first-world places there either aren’t building codes or they aren’t enforced. Apparently one scene where the soldiers had to run up a set of stairs onto a roof required a ridiculous amount of takes because they tripped every time – the stair height was all over the place. 

    For some reason, that story really stuck with me in a way few things ever do (I was probably 13 or 14 at the time) and I now take great notice of any variations in stair construction. I took great pleasure in the huge variety of stair designs across Thailand and other countries I’ve traveled to (including western countries in Europe). 

    I still get tripped up on uneven stairs if I’m not paying attention, but I am usually paying attention :)  It’s a skill, and few people who live in places without stair building codes trip very often. Us decadent westerners have simply become complacent :)

  11. My interior design students here in India were questioning why I was making them do stair calculations (ALL stairs are random and ill-conceived here) so I just showed them this video. I’m American, and now I’m always covered in bruises.

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