This Is Why Escalator Handrails Move Faster Than the Steps

The phenomenon is not a design flaw.
Loukia Papadopoulos

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We all use escalators but have you noticed how sometimes the handrails can move at different speeds than the steps? Indeed, very often if you hold the handrail too tight you risk being pulled by it in either direction.

Why do handrails move at different speeds than the steps of escalators? Could engineers be building these important elements with different speeds due to a design flaw? Not at all but to give a complete and thorough answer to this question, we must first examine how escalators are built.

Escalators are really not that complicated. They simply consist of a ring of steps connected to a motor with gears that turns both the steps and the handrails.

Escalator handrails in particular are designed from one giant rubber ring that flexes and stretches as it rolls around the system. This handrail is driven by a smooth-ish ring, which uses friction to move.

However, as time goes by, the same friction that causes the handrail to move also wears the rubber out, stretching it out in the process and making it slightly longer and therefore slower than the steps.