Who Gets The Arm Rest On The Tube: The Results

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 18 months ago
Who Gets The Arm Rest On The Tube: The Results
Photo shows an empty tube carriage
No arguments here. Photo by Mister T' via the Londonist Flickr pool

We touched a nerve when we posed the etiquette dilemma about who gets the arm rest on the tube.

In our poll, thousands responded to argue over the answer: the first person to get there; the person who wins the arm 'rest-le'; everyone gets the left rest; or everyone gets the right.

And the winner is: The first person in the seat can claim both.

Although, it must be said, it wasn't a resounding victory. With 27.4% of the vote, it only just pipped "don't care" to the post (25%) — although these respondents certainly cared enough to respond. Which is caring enough.

Almost a fifth of people (19%) feel that the winner of the elbow war can claim the spoils of the arm rests; while 15.6% of people feel everyone should take the arm rest to their left; and just 13% feel everyone should take the rest to their right.

The lively debate which ensued produced some interesting ideas, not least of which was that everyone should take the front of one and the back of the other, and then everyone gets both arm rests. Many people remarked that no-one should get them, as they're not arm rests, but 'people dividers'.

So, there you have it — next time you find yourself sitting on a tube, and someone gets on and tries to wrestle you off the rests, point them to this definitive study.

Last Updated 06 October 2016


Actually, people who have said people should just take one armrest - be it left or right - wins with 28.6%. Well done for highlighting the flaws of a plurality voting system though!

Geoff Marshall

I think people people to rest their left arm, because more people are right handed. So your 'active' arm/hand is not resting, so that you can do something with it (drink, use your phone etc..) whilst your left one rests, or holds something whilst in a resting position.

Only one in ten people are left handed, right?

Alyson Tart

Perhaps they need a new verion of signs like the tube warnings to stand to the right, this time stating, arms to the left?

Jonathan Wadman

'Everyone should take the front of one and the back of the other, and then everyone gets both arm rests': I seem to remember some older Tube stock had stepped armrests, presumably to encourage just such behaviour.


No one should take it. It isn't an arm rest, it's a partition to stop dirty people from touching me.


I just sit back and take half of each, no matter what. If the other person doesn't comply, this normally results in a few minutes of "uncomfortably close arm touching" (for the other person, I don't care) until the other person relinquishes.

Think you own the arm rest? Think again.


Great, now can you please the getting-off-the-train etiquette problem! And I don't mean the one where people push on while others are exiting. I mean the one where people sitting suddenly stand up and push in front of those who have been standing the whole time. Especially bad on SWT at Waterloo.

Philip Whitehouse

I'd rather it be used as a dividing line, not an arm rest honestly.