Don't Be A Brolly Wally In London

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 35 months ago
Don't Be A Brolly Wally In London

Wet today, isn't it? Perfect time, then, to introduce you to our guide to umbrella etiquette. At this soggy time of year, the congested pavements of London are saturated with tourists, commuters and other pedestrians, each now equipped with an extra obstacle — an umbrella. Each umbrella must be wielded appropriately — otherwise accidents, and fits of brolly rage are liable to follow.

Here's our guide on how to behave correctly while walking with an umbrella — whether it's open or closed — and when to correctly use one.

Photo by psyxjaw, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

When to use an umbrella

You use an umbrella when it's raining, and don't when it's dry. BUT there are a few finer points people still manage to get wrong, and fellow pedestrians will thank us for mentioning them:

Drizzle: When you're in a quiet area and it's drizzling, it's your own call whether you use an umbrella or not. When you're in the throng of Oxford Circus, however, an umbrella is an unnecessary luxury, and therefore should be frowned upon.

Golf umbrellas: These oversized canopies are not just an eyesore: unless there are two people under one. In the hands of a solo pedestrian, golf umbrellas are at best an annoyance, at worst a weapon designed to knock people over and take their eyes out. they have absolutely no place anywhere in zone 1 or on any busy London thoroughfare. Save it for St Andrews.

Walking with an umbrella open

We've witnessed brolly-provoked collisions aplenty, with inconsiderate walkers refusing to heed our rules below:

Using a phone: People get hit by cars or fall off piers because they were scrolling through their Facebook updates rather than paying attention to real life. Checking your phone while walking with an umbrella doubles the danger and should be avoided at all costs. We recognise that sometimes it's necessary, e.g. to check maps to see where you're going, but at least pull over on the side first.

Tilting: To avoid umbrella clash when walking towards someone, tilt the respective umbrellas away from each other so that you remain covered but don't catch the other umbrella. When tilting, make sure you look around so you don't jab the umbrella into someone else's face.

Lift & Lower: An alternative to tilting is for one person to lower their umbrella and the other to lift. It's effective where space is tight and standard procedure is for the taller person to lift. This only becomes a problem where two people of similar height are indecisive and you end up with two umbrellas moving up and down like some kind of awkward morris dance.

Cornering: Nobody likes to walk round a blind corner at pace, only to crash into someone else, and it's even worse when you get a face full of umbrella. So when possible, try to take a wider line going into any blind corners.

This chap looks like he's got good brolly manners. Photo by John Willoughby, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Carrying a closed umbrella

Once closed, it's easy to assume that umbrellas stop becoming a nuisance. But there are still some people who don't get it:

Drying: It's often effective to shake off the water from an umbrella before closing it, but care should be taken: fellow commuters won't thank you for showering them with water. So make sure you check behind you when entering a building or a station before attempting a shake and dry.

Brolly wrap: Sometimes it's impossible to avoid a dripping umbrella, but many buildings have wrapping stations, which are simple to use, and very effective.

Horizontal carrying: Try to carry an umbrella vertically at all times, especially if you are an arm swinger — nobody likes being jabbed by a pointy umbrella held by the person in front of them, whether walking or standing on an escalator. We've witnessed and sometimes experienced being jabbed in the eye, stomach and groin. If you've ignored our rule above about golf umbrellas and are also carrying it horizontally, you are truly a menace to civilised society.

Public transport: An umbrella should be placed by your feet or held in your hand when on the train, Underground or bus. Placing it on your lap leaves a wet patch making it look like you've got a bit too excited, and placing it on the adjacent seat is a big no, because someone will eventually sit there and receive a damp derrière. Note that umbrellas are one of the most common items forgotten on public transport remember it when you leave: one tip is to position your brolly close to your feet so you knock it as you stand up, thus acting as a helpful prompt.

Fidgeters: It can't be helped — some of us are fidgety individuals who simply can't stand still when waiting for a bus or train. But please refrain from filling this time by twirling or swinging an umbrella — it's unlikely to end well as you'll probably hit someone with it. Instead, break out your phone and check out the latest news and reviews on Londonist.

These are some handy suggestions on umbrella etiquette, but if you have others, let us know in the comments and we'll add them to the list. Or feel free to comment if you don't agree with our rules.

Last Updated 31 August 2015