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See public transport campaigns against “manspreading” from around the world

By Aamna Mohdin
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.
Amelia Opdyke Jones/New York Transit Museum
A 1947 New York City poster.

Whether it’s on trains, subways, or buses, “manspreading” will undoubtedly aggravate fellow commuters throughout the world.

There are blogs and Facebook groups dedicated to shaming male passengers who inconvenience others by keeping their legs wide apart; it’s even considered a crime on some public transport. This public faux-pas is the subject of the New York Transit Museum’s newest exhibition, “Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages.”

The exhibit includes campaign posters that span a century from transit agencies in the US and abroad used to discourage certain transport etiquette sins. These campaign posters asking people not to smoke, to let people off the train first, and unsurprisingly, to mind how much space being used in a busy train.

New York Transit Museum
Campaign by Robert Willis, Illustrations by Ed Spence, Print Design by Koot Botha Courtesy of TransLink
Lounge Lizard, Vancouver, 2011.
Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation
A 2012 Tokyo Metro poster.
Hideya Kawakita/Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation
A 1976 Tokyo Metro poster.
Chicago Transit Authority
Chicago, 2015.
London Transport Museum Collection
A 1986 London Tube poster.

The exhibit highlights how remarkably consistent inappropriate behaviors have been on public transport. Whether it’s 1916 or 2016, there’s always someone who won’t keep their legs shut.

But this sin of transport etiquette may not be all bad; a recent study suggested that people who took up space were rated as more attractive than others.

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