Our Pet Peeves On Public Transport

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
Our Pet Peeves On Public Transport
Photo by Andy kirby from the Londonist Flickr pool

We all know the common annoyances encountered every day on public transport — people standing on the left on escalators, passengers planting bags on the seat next to them on a busy train and those particularly bothersome individuals who stand in front of the ticket gates fishing around for their Oyster card (we've dubbed them oyster catchers).

But there are some niche annoyances that deserve an airing, so we've captured a few that test our patience:

Wasting the 'driver's seat'

Everybody loves to sit at the front of the top deck of the bus or at the front of the DLR for the great view and because the inner child in you feels like you're driving. But it's frustrating when someone nabs the seat and then spends the entire journey gawping at their phone — what a waste! Either make the most of it or pick another seat.

Look closely — the woman in the front seat is waving. This is correct. Photo by Adam Smith from the Londonist Flickr pool

Seat searchers

The introduction of Underground and Overground trains where you can walk the entire length without passing through doors is wonderful. However, it has given rise to a specific breed of traveller who is convinced that even on a busy train there must be a spare seat somewhere. He will travel the entire length of  a busy train, pushing past everyone in search of this cushioned El Dorado.

The sidlers

When the platform or bus is relatively empty, there is no need to stand or sit right next to someone when there's plenty of space available elsewhere. It can also be quite creepy when a person sits directly opposite us on a quiet Underground carriage — yes, we're experts at avoiding eye contact but we'd like to avoid it altogether if possible. Other incarnations involve a person standing in front of us once we've picked the ideal spot to wait on a platform and those who insist the leaning cushions on trains can accommodate more than one person; no they can't.

Seated children

When we were young (we were once, honest) we were required to give up our seats for adults. But now the worm has turned and adults are now required to give up their seats to little tykes — when did this happen and why? Who knows, but it makes no sense for a four year old to take up an entire seat when they could easily fit comfortably on daddy's lap.

Pole hoggers

The pole at the centre of the carriage vestibules is designed so many people can hold on to it at once, not so one person can lean on it and prevent others from getting a grip. It's only allowed on the rare occasion when you are the only one standing in the vicinity of the pole.

Nobody else is around: this is acceptable. Photo by Blair Kay from the Londonist Flickr pool

The over affectionate

Yes, we know you love each other. But this grimy, sweaty mode of transport isn't exactly midsummer Paris or the canals of Venice. Keep it in check until you're in a more appropriate setting. Love has no place on public transport.

Door sliders

It's not always possible to predict where to stand on a platform to align with the doors, though some of us have perfected this from years of practice. But there are some who think that if they get it wrong they can simply follow the door as the train slows down, forcing their way past other perfectly positioned commuters. We must admit we've blocked off a few door sliders in our time.

The seated royalty

It's OK to feel smug if you have a seat and others are standing, but this does mean that when it comes to your stop then 'standers' have priority to exit first. Sometimes a 'stander' will gesture for a 'seater' to proceed before them but it's not acceptable for the seated to assume they can have it all.

There is no justification for legs this wide part. Photo by nevermindtheend from the Londonist Flickr pool


This is where some passengers, largely men, sit with their legs so wide apart they stretch beyond the boundaries of their seat and sometimes take up two seats. Examples can be so extreme that a groin strain can't be far off... and not a single fellow commuter will have any sympathy.

The outsiders

When there's two seats it's common courtesy to slide into the window seat so someone can take the aisle. However, some people refuse to do so and will remain aisle-bound and force others to squeeze past them to get to the free seat. We can only imagine they constantly fear that they won't be able to get off at their station, when in fact most of the train empties at Clapham Junction.

The over eager

Yes your station is coming up, and no it won't get here faster if you stand at the door like a puppy expecting its owner at any minute. Trains also won't open their doors until they come to a stop so pushing that button repeatedly won't solve anything either.

That's our list of niche annoyances, but what are yours? Let us know in the comments below.

For more public etiquette decrees, see:

This article has been updated post-publication based on suggestions received from Londonist readers.

Last Updated 07 September 2015

Craig Edmonds

I have some more to add here:

1. Bad Platform Clairvoyant: I know you have somewhere to be because you keep checking the time. It's also okay to pre-emptively leave your seat two stations early in order to wait at the door. But not on the wrong side...

2. The Commuter Tube Challenge: The beeping of the doors is about to start so you'd better make a move! There are 20 steps to the platform and you can see the slowly closing doors in front of you. It's now or never. God forbid you wait another minute or two!

3. Gatekeepers: Rule No.1 - ALWAYS check your Oyster balance on the barrier monitor. That way, if you have enough, you can proceed through it. If not, you get to play human dominoes.

Giles Cudmore

My pet peeve is fat people, if you can't fit on one seat maybe you should have to pay for 2. Same with that c***'s who sit on the outside so their bag can have it's own seat, then they look so put out when you say excuse me and force yourself to the seat - i wish I could cut them.

Beth Williams

1. The Gluttons: Anybody found eating on public transport should be permanently transported to Botany Bay. Are these people going to starve if they don't get a stinky portion of fatty fast food into their gobs before throwing the greasy packaging away?
2. The Make-Uppers: Why do fellow passengers have to be subjected to the pathetic application of make-up on a tube or bus as it bounces along. Do these simpletons want to look ugly?

Fred Smith

I didn't know Sheldon Cooper wrote for the Londonist.


Lift queue jumpers. Selfish, despicable breed.


The Rowdy Men: There are some occasions where you get two to five annoying men swearing at every possible opportunity, shouting like they're in a pub, like they own the train.

Umbrellas: When people, while walking up the stairs in front of me, think they can point their umbrella behind them so that other people can get poked in the stomach.

Greg Tingey

Official Loudmouths
At least 95% of all announcements on the Underground are 150% unnecessary.
And almost all of those are TOO LOUD - some to the point of causing physical pain to the hearers - as in being told THIS IS EUSTON! at 130dB about 5 times really, really is not funny.

One of these days, there will be a real emergency, all the deafening messages will go out - and no-one will take a blind bit of notice, because, after all, it's only another bit of random shouting, isn't it?

Graham White

The Handbaggers - Ladies who insist on carrying the largest possible bag on their shoulders and proceed to sit down with it still on the shoulder, thus clouting the person they sit next to.

The Bag Resters - People who insist on their bags having a seat (or two sometimes!) too.

The Leg Crossers - People who insist on crossing their legs in a packed carriage limiting standing space.

The Slouchers - Same as leg crosses except they slouch.

The Make-Up-ers - Ladies who insist on applying a bewildering range of make-up during their journey.

The Harrumphing Standers - People who feel it's their right to sit and not yours, so huff and puff while standing in front of you. These people are often able bodied, not pregnant, not elderly and end up going 3 stops or less.

The Readers - The ones that insist on reading anything in any space that means they or their book/newspaper/magazine/Kindle is constantly jogging you.


People (usually in groups) who step off the bottom of the escalator...and then stop dead right there to have a look around and work out which direction they need to be taking to get to the right line and the right platform. Causing a near-fatal crush as the people on the step immediately behind them try to find somewhere to go, the people behind them are stuck...etc etc.

People at the front of the queue for lifts (Covent Garden and Russell Square I'm looking at you in particular) who take up the front of the lift and then make sure they have acres of personal space around them. Meanwhile the people at the back of the lift are having their organs crushed out of them in a bid to fit in, and there remains a long queue of people in the corridor as the lift takes off half-empty. There used to be guards in the lift who would encourage people to step forward and create more space for more travellers. If they're going to get rid of ticket halls there is a job that the ticket sellers could usefully do instead!

Dave H

1. People who walk down the left of escalators, then stop for the last metre through fear of being sucked into the mechanics. These fuck wits don't understand that now the whole walking side is doomed until rush hour is over. Arseholes.


Pet peeve: Over critical travellers, with nothing better to do than scowl and find fault with their fellow Passengers.


People that are reading/watching movies whilst walking through crowded stations. Should be shot.

Amanda Jones

They don't annoy me but I find them lovely: those tourists who actually believe it's them who are opening the (underground) train doors when they press the button from the outside


Wide leg sitters. You repel me. Mostly men. Seriously. Your dick is not that big. Close your legs.


Barrier Blockers - the people who think they know what platform their train will leave from so they crowd around the barrier, thus blocking the exit for people getting off the train.

Amanda Jones

And what about those people who 30 secs before getting to their stop start pushing and saying excuse me to the person between them and the door as if there was no tomorrow, when the aforementioned person is getting off at the same stop too.

Ric Euteneuer

People who wait till they get to the gateline before THEN retrieving their Oyster Card. People who are on the phone at the gateline and walk slowly. People who stop just after getting on/off the train or outside the ticket gates who then look around thereby blocking ingress/egress. People who try and put their tickets/Oysters through multiple times, if the gates don't open, as if it accretes value/credit by doing so.

Pete Fleetwood

People who sit opposite each other and conduct loud a conversation across the carriage. Often builders. Sometimes happens at White City and the conversation gets louder and LOUDER as the train enters the tunnel.

People who rush to carriage doors on the wrong side as the train nears a station. Often happens on the northbound Bakerloo at Paddington -- the previous two stops exit on the left, but Paddo is on the right.

People who suddenly realise they're at Royal Oak on the H+C when they actually wanted Bayswater or Notting Hill. Has happened a lot since the Circle and H+C were so confusingly amalgamated.

People who TAP a magnetic stripe ticket on the Oyster reader (probably the most annoying of them all)


People who use me as a cushion! My average frame can't carry you and me!


Tabish this is a good article, although my book @theperreiratales
talks about all of this and more including:

Aisle seat swivellers – Particularly on the bus or District/Bakerloo
lines, those people who just have to have the aisle seat and when the person
next to them (the window seat person) wants to alight, instead of moving their
whole body out of the way, they just swivel in their seat and leave next to no
room for others to get up.

Rucksacks – I can’t stand people who stand with their
rucksacks on their back especially in a packed vestibule, bashing people around
and leaning on other passengers.

Door dwellers – There are a breed of people who are obsessed
with standing by the doors. Whether it be standing in front of the doors when a
large amount of people want to get on, or standing in front of the doors when a
large amount of people want to get off. Or getting on the carriage and standing
in the doorway when other people are trying to get on. I just can’t “stand” it!

Seat hogs – I can’t stand people who take up 75% of a seat
designed for two people.

Priority seat thieves – I hate people who sit in the
priority seat and read or worse still, sleep. These people tend to be totally
oblivious when priority passengers get on. Priority seats are designed for
people with a priority need!

Spreaders – I can’t stand people who try to spread
themselves out when there isn’t much space to stand. Especially those who read
newspapers and spread them right out.

Slow walkers – I can’t stand people who make such a fuss of being
the first to the door to get off first and then proceed to get off as slowly as
possible causing a pile up behind them.

Door blockers - People who do not move to one side when
boarding whilst others are trying to alight, or even try to get on while others
are alighting.

Space invaders – I totally understand and appreciate that
the tube is a packed place, but some people move around and don’t look at what
they are doing. Sometimes there is actually plenty of room but some people just
move further and further into your personal space without a care in the world
that you’re there!

Sighers – In a tight space when the train is packed, people
who sigh or exhale in your face – especially when their breath stinks.

Eyes wide shut people – People who won’t move down inside
the carriage when there is plenty of space, and therefore preventing other
passengers from getting on. These tend to be the same people that insist that
there is plenty of space when they are standing outside and the tube is packed
to the rafters.

Drivers – Overground drivers who sit there in an air-conditioned
carriage and don’t have the presence of mind to turn on the air-conditioning
when the whole train is packed.

Button blockers – People who stand in front of the buttons
when you are trying to get off the Overground/train.

Cutters – People who get off/on through one side of the door
and cross right over when they alight/board therefore cutting right across your
path when you’re getting on in a straight line!

Tabish Khan

Thanks everyone, some more have been added based on your comments

Geoff Lumley

The reason I walk the length of LO trains is that there are only 2 or 3 seats on the train where my head doesn't hit the wall or the window frame if I sit down. The seats are too close to the wall, and you have to sit bend slightly forward if you are a six-footer. The trains are (in my opinion) potential disaster zones, a packed train that stopped suddenly (derail/crash) and hundreds of people will be thrown on to each other in a pile. Most trains have glass panels or carriage ends to segregate piles in to smaller, less dangerous, numbers.


The Bus Bargers: when you are politely waiting at the bottom of the stairs on the bus for people who are coming down to get off at their stop, and the self-righteous numbskulls getting on the bus behind you try and barge their way past, as if you are just standing there for the sake of your health rather than waiting your turn before moving on to also find a seat/wait further down. I literally cannot prevent the scowl on my face (or my shoulder blocking the complete amateurs).


1. The infuriating sounds from headphones! And why is it always C-RAP music?
2. Mobile phone conversations. You are NOT that important. Your whining, smug voice is annoying.
3. Bad personal hygiene.
4. Luggage. Especially on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow. These so called suitcases are often the size of fridge freezers!! Dread to think what would happen in an emergency or if the train had to be evacuated. Allow Oyster use on the Heathrow Express/Connect.
5. People who are simply oblivious towards their surroundings and fellow human beings.


I particularly hate the Outsiders -- why do people sit in the aisle, then stay there for the entire route, making it difficult for others to get into the window seat. Some people are afraid of windows, I think. Something about them that makes some travellers too scared to sit next to them. They would rather sit in the aisle and trip up passers-by.


It's the people on the DLR who press the door open button about 10 times before the light comes on.
You are not helping at all, or making time go faster.


I'll add women spreaders. They may not spread their legs so wide but are happy to use pony tails, long hair, ridicuosly large bags and sometimes breasts as weapons to secure space.

And the impatient people. I wait for people to filter out and make way so I can get out - but they are almost smashing you out of the way as if they're scared to death they won't get off.

Oh and people reading books and watching iPads when walking around and travelling escalators. Put your pacifiers away for one fucking minute.


TfL staff who use their microphone to perform their banter to the waiting commuters, yet only the person with the microphone thinks they're funny whilst the rest of us are desperate for the train to arrive and then leave so we can escape the inanity. Once on the train there can be drivers too who use the train microphone to subject is to more unsolicited banter. Go on BGT or shut up!

Chris 'Fish' Roberts

People who lean against the doors on the Central line and cause the train to emergency stop on the way out of a station. Or: people who cram themselves into an overcrowded train on the Central line and then can't help but lean against the doors.

Greg Tingey

ANNOUNCEMENTS I. E. MUCH TOO LOUD, much too often & at least 95% of them are 150% unnecessary.
Worst on the UndergounD, of course.

Kayleigh Pip Piper

I can't stand it when you see someone who has put their bag on a seat and when you ask to sit there they huff and puff at you like your the one who is being unreasonable. There is one woman who gets on my train every morning who does it to the point where she actual asked a commuter,' why can't they just stand?'

Jon Mann

The dawdle on the Lefters
We all know that you are supposed to stand on the right and walk on the left - occasionally a misinformed tourist will stand on the left, but normally a gruff "excuse me" will solve the problem. But worse than the Stand on the Lefters is the Dawdle on the Lefters. These are the ones who slowly amble down the escalators at half the speed of a snail!


When you rush for a seat but the person in front walks soooo slowly because they are guaranteed a seat that you miss out because the carriage fills up on the other end! So frustrating

Andrew Ambler

Am I alone in not minding at all when women apply makeup on the tube? It's not harming anyone (it's not like it smells bad or anything) and is frankly an efficient use of dead time. Food is a different matter though, because it does smell, even a lot of cold food. Organise your time better - however busy you think you are, you're still perfectly capable of factoring in a five minute pause in Pret to polish off the stinky salad you just bought.

Anna Heath

It really riles me when I am waiting patiently to get off the train, with my finger poised over the button, ready to push it as soon as it lights up, and some other numpty comes and repeatedly pushes the other button at that set of doors. I've got this, people! Back off!


Station announcements that are made as a train is rattling in.