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November 22, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Pedestrian mall benches

Oxford2Ed Pejack writes:

Visiting in Oxford, England lately, I strolled down a street that was converted to a pedestrian mall. Here is a picture of the benches. A bench usually consists of a flat area for your you-know-what while you sit and relax. What were they thinking of here, a sliding board? A local resident shook his head and offered no explanation. The other side of the row of benches are more tradional.


"No sleeping, no skating."

Posted by: Nick Finck at November 22, 2004 12:33 AM

They almost look upside down. Almost

Posted by: DoppelFrog at November 22, 2004 04:11 AM

I like them: they are to rest your back for a couple of minutes while standing up and not having to set down all the bags and stuff you've stuffed under your arms or are balacing on your head.

The design also serves the less admirable purpose of preventing homeless people from sleeping on the benches, thereby being unsightly, thus preventing the posh passsers-by from spending ludicrous amounts of money in the boutiques without feeling bad for the guy who sleeps on the bench in the winter. Heaven forbit, the shopper might even start to think about what's truly important in life, go to Africa to prevent famine and and up not buying that pair of Gucci gold plated underpants...

This, by the way, is the only reason North Americans have "open container laws", which are similarly "broken". If you can't arrest them for being homeless, you need some other excuse to arrest them...

Posted by: Tim Becker at November 22, 2004 06:03 AM

What's the woman on the other side of the bench sitting on?She's too low to be sitting on this contraption.

Posted by: Jay at November 22, 2004 09:12 AM

She's sitting on the other side of the row of benches, which are more tradional.   ; )

Posted by: Rob at November 22, 2004 11:40 AM

Yeah, they're for leaning. The Montreal metros have metal bars at the same height for the same purpose.

My understanding was that for some it is as painful to have to stand up from a fully seated position, or bend over to pick up bags, as it is to continue standing -- a place to lean avoids making getting back up painful when the bus arrives.

Not only is a place to lean not broken, but it's probably leaning towards "innovative". (I suspect the target audience knows to look for a non-designed place to lean, and immediately understands that this is a designed place -- at least that's what happens in the metro.)

Posted by: mendel at November 22, 2004 04:37 PM

Call me Captain Insane, but I like sitting in those chairs, if you jump up a bit you can sit on them with a kind of leg support that is in no way uncomfortable. Not broken in the slightest.

How you get from comfortable benches to the horrible evils of North America is beyond me.

Posted by: Jim King at November 22, 2004 10:34 PM

I believe the primary intent is to keep the homeless from sleeping on the benches. I have been seeing things like this all over. In St. Louis, Missouri, they have even molded ridges into the tops of concrete benches in order to keep people from sleeping on them.

Posted by: FrankL at November 23, 2004 01:32 PM

The problem with people lying down on the bench, homeless or not, is that sometimes more than one person wants to use the bench. If a person is lying down on a bench, this makes the premise a little rough, especially if the person on the bench looks like a particularly crabby individual. Most people don't enjoy getting in one another's faces, especially over a bench, but they still want to use it (even if they are of a significant distance away from the other user.) Dividing the bench into seats protects this social assumption.

Of course, the major downside, in my mind, is how dividing a bench into seats necessarily separates you from your honey when both of you are enjoying the park and each other's company. Losing that, in my mind, completely sucks and is worth a little bit of social discomfort at times to maintain.

Posted by: perianwyr at November 23, 2004 07:32 PM

_@_v - to the sidewalk socialist up there who apparently wants us all to 'go to africa to prevent famine'...

_@_v - the problem with africa is over 40 years of well meaning but utterly wrong attempts to 'go to africa to prevent famine' and the craptastic socialist 'governments' in africa whose policies continue to make africa the beyond-broken basket case it is today.

_@_v - many hands had to make, market and move that 'pair of gucci gold plated underpants' - not buying them takes food off their plates you know...

_@_v - bill gates and his like have individually done more good for the world than a thousand mother theresas ever will...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at November 25, 2004 05:04 PM

_@_v - as for the homeless 'problem'... it should be noted that it really came about after the mass closings of mental hospitals by the same well-meaning 'progessives' of the 60s and 70s who couldn't bear the idea of locking up the chronically insane for their own good anymore so they were 'liberated' to the streets with little means of support just as well-meaning 'urban renewal' programs leveled the sort of skid-row neighbourhoods that could absorb the swelling tide of marginalised people...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at November 25, 2004 05:11 PM

IMHO as a graphical designer, those look like they were placed there graphically, notice the sort of jagged edges on the rounded parts of the metal... i dunno, looks like someones playing a practical joke to me... i could be wrong though.

Posted by: Shea at November 27, 2004 03:22 AM

As a "graphical designer", you need a bit more practice.

What you're most likely seeing is artifacts from JPEG compression and/or a poor method of re-sizing the image from its original size.

Posted by: Niggabyte at November 27, 2004 12:24 PM

she-snailie_@_v, I've also noticed a lot of socialism lately in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, etc. They've far too much of it for their own good.

Since these benches are in England, I think all you can accuse anyone of is of being a pavement socialist.

Posted by: Simon Trew at November 27, 2004 08:00 PM

_@_v - yes but being an american snailie, "sidewalk socialist" would be correct for my purpose which wasn't location-specific.

_@_v - anyways it's a reference to a line in an old blondie song...

11:59 - (Destri)

Leaning in your corner like a candidate for wax

Sidewalk social scientist

Don't get no satisfaction from your cigarette

It's ten to ten

Time is running out

Lock up all your memories

Get outa here you know that we can run

Today can last another million years

Today could be the end of me

It's 11:59 and I want to stay alive

Pumping like a fugitive in cover from the night

Take it down the freeway like a bullet to the ocean

Wait until the morning take tomorrow by the hand

Take it down the highway like a rocket to the ocean

We can run

Today can last another million years

Today could be the end of me

It's 11:59 and I want to stay alive

Hanging on a frequency burning like a fire

Boy you've got the motion down

It's getting late I'm tired and I've lost control

Don't leave me here

Time is running out

Take me down the highway like a rocket to the ocean

We can run

Today can last another million years

Today could be the end of me

It's 11:59 and I want to stay alive

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at November 30, 2004 03:30 AM

What are you people saying about leaning on them. You would have to bend down to lean on them. They are for sitting because they have arm rests.

Posted by: unknown at March 7, 2005 03:15 PM

That is a godawful design for "leaning". Are the rounded parts meant to rest ones backside against ? Now, if those were pull out seats (hinged at the metal rod), they would make comfy enough conventional seats.

Posted by: Joe at October 1, 2005 05:30 AM

Perhaps there was a joke played on everyone, it looks as if the bench could've been attached upside-down, either by an idiot installation crew or as a prank.

Posted by: ep at January 12, 2006 02:25 AM

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