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In all my life I have never seen a clockwise revolving door. How did counterclockwise become standard?

  • I have seen both my whole life (USA). Never thought about it, I just push on the push bar, or follow the people ahead of me. Same as with normal doors. – user67695 Sep 5 '17 at 16:59
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Revolving door traditionally revolve in the direction based on the locations driving habits. That is, right-hand traffic or left-hand traffic.

In countries where right-hand traffic is the standard, revolving doors tend to rotate counterclockwise. This coincides with user expectations of "keeping to the right" even when walking down a sidewalk. Thus they enter a revolving door to the right of the center, and it spins counterclockwise.

In countries where left-hand traffic is the stands, revolving doors tend to rotate clockwise.

From the Wikipedia article on Revolving Doors:

In left hand traffic countries such as Australia and New Zealand,[4] revolving doors revolve clockwise,[5] but door rotations are mixed in Britain.[6]

This can obviously cause confusion for tourists. On visiting the Wikipedia reference article ([4] "Roadside". brianlucas.ca.) we learn:

Alex Boster reports that in Australia and New Zealand, the situation is reversed and people keep to the left. As a tourist, "the second biggest danger to life and limb... was not to get smacked in the face by a revolving door."

I'm guessing the biggest danger to life, at least in Australia, is anything smaller than you. Since anything smaller than you in Australia is "the most poisonous" of its kind. New Zealand's #1 killer eludes me (sheep?).

The direction is not a guarantee though. As quoted above, the situation is mixed in Britain and it would be surprising to not be able to find at least one clockwise rotating door in the United States.

Ultimately the tendency of rotation leans towards the user's expectation based on the traditional left-hand vs. right-hand traffic assumptions. If you have the assumption to "keep right" chances are you should enter the rotating door on the right hand side.

  • That's interesting. I would have thought that counterclockwise would be most common due to right handed users (most common) having more leverage on the door with their dominant hand. – Baldrickk Jan 17 '17 at 14:18
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This is a great question!

It's interesting because it represents a design tradeoff.

First, it's not the case that revolving doors are never clockwise. Wikipedia notes that "in left hand traffic countries such as Australia and New Zealand, revolving doors revolve clockwise, but door rotations are mixed in Britain".

So doors are typically arranged to mimic the conventional affordance of traffic in the country.

So where's the tradeoff? Well, for manual revolving doors the user has to push the door to open it. For typical doors there is a big difference in mechanical leverage with pushing from the outside (away from the axis) vs the inside (closer to the axis). Since most people are right handed (stronger arm), doors are mechanically easier to operated when they rotate counter clockwise.

But because of the risk of collision, I'm guessing that most countries correctly choose to manage traffic rather than mechanical advantage.

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