Who Gets The Arm Rest On The Tube?

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 41 months ago
Who Gets The Arm Rest On The Tube?

Where to put your arms? Photo by murphyz in the Londonist Flickr pool.

You know the situation: you're sat on the tube comfortably reading your book, when someone gets on and sits next to you. You both then spend the entirety of your journeys passive-aggressively duelling with your elbows for rights over the arm rests. It's enough to send even the most placid person's stress levels as high as The Shard, but what's the protocol? Should you, as the first person sat there, have all rights to the arm rests? Or, do you adopt the "dinner table side plate" rule, of everyone gets the arm rest to their left (the person by the glass panel at the door can lean on that). Perhaps it depends whether you're left-handed or right-handed? Or maybe it's simply a case of 'might is right' — whoever wins the elbow war, wins the arms rest?

We want to know what you think — fill in the poll below, we'll tally up the results and report back.

EDIT: We've totted up the votes — you can see the results here.

Last Updated 05 December 2014

PTC Photo

get rid of them and just have a long bench, no arguments and taking away all those results in a little gained seating space, also can the Victoria line do away with those ridiculous "driver shouts at you and you go flying when they slam on the brakes " door sensors? platform attendant at Oxford Circus agrees and this system was rolled out without apparent testing nor foresight into London rush hour travel!


Don't consider them armrests; consider them low-placed people separation barriers. I try to tuck my elbows inside them and rest my forearms on the side, which there's room for both people to do.

Steve Chilton

Doesn't the fattest person usually win?
Anyway, who the heck ever gets a seat anyway?

Geoff Marshall

You're allowed to have both arm rests (obviously) right up until someone sits next to you, then you must ascertain if there are now sandwiched in-between two people, and if so you should give one of yours up.

Worst though is when you both don't rest but 'half rest' and have a 'touching elbows' contest that bump in and out with the rhythm of the train.

But generally, if you're there first - it's your call. As long as you never have both when there are people sitting either side of you.

(BONUS QUESTION: Can you name which lines DO and DON'T have arms rests, as not all of them do ... )

Olga S

In my experience anyone with a Y chromosome thinks they are entitled to both armrests! They're usually the same people who, in summer, when it's hot and you've carefully positioned yourself at the front of the carriage to get the benefit of the air from the open window, stand RIGHT IN FRONT of said window getting the benefit of said air all to themselves!
*lights blue touchpaper and runs away*


The arm rest protocol is flawed by the fences vs posts problem (i.e. More seats than armrests). I'd suggest first person gets their choice of front of back of each armrest, next person gets the other half. Don't be greedy!


This morning I could hardly believe my luck when getting on the tube at Stratford - one seat left! On closer inspection, however, I discovered there was a catch - the seat was next to a lady best described as being extremely large (and wearing, for reasons unknown, a high visibility waistcoat). We did find a happy solution, though, as I managed to jam my arm onto the arm rest before she asserted her own overall supremacy by enveloping both arm and rest within her fleshy folds.


I always stand up - avoids the hassle of fighting over armrests (the bigger guy always gets the armrests), being squashed next to someone etc and besides standing us is healthier!


I can't remember which line it is but they have a bent arm rest, the bit nearest the seat back is lower than the front end. One person uses the back bit and the neighbour uses the front bit. It actually works brilliantly. You can do that with the straight ones too but feels a little less comfortable doing so.


I lost an eye to this very debate.

Share, don't take it all to yourself.


Missing answer number 6 - nobody should rest their arms on the arm rest. It is there to separate you from the next person!


Thankfully I only have to use the tube when I've visiting my birthplace which, with the slow popping of clogs in my family, is none too often these days. I used to board at South Woodford to get into Baker Street where I worked before marrying a Dutchman and coming to live in Holland. Even back in the mid 70's it was sometimes difficult to nab a seat so I solved the problem by leaving for work 45 minutes early! The short hop from Oxford Circus to Baker street wasn't hard on the legs so I found no reason to complain. Although we weren't working flexi hours back then my bosses didn't mind me leaving before 5pm seeing as how I'd arrived at 8am. So I nearly always found a seat at Oxford Circus. I ploughed through War & Peace in just 3 weeks but can't remember if the armrest helped or not (*_*)


Oh yes - I forgot to mention that humans rarely like to sit close to strangers and prefer to leave a whole seat between them and the next person if at all possible. The arm rests solve the problem of trying to shunt people together to maximize the amount of people you can fit onto a bench seat. Just take a look in the waiting room of your doctor or dentist. If there is a chair on its own, this will always be claimed by a new patient walking into the surgery rather than them plonking themselves down on the chair 2 inches away from a stranger!!

Ed Italo

The arm rest should be no one's. Keep your elbows in. Use the arm rest only if there is nobody next to you.