By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
A new Glider bus service rolls into Belfast later this year.
New bus shelters throughout the east and west of the city have been erected to accommodate the service.
You will have noticed two structures that are part of the new shelters. One is recognisably a bench for sitting on. The other one is just weird looking. I initially thought it was going to be a notice board as it’s totally impractical for any other use. After a spot of research, I can reliably inform our readers that it is a leaning bar/leaning post/perch. The idea is that you will lean or perch against it as you wait for your new Glider bus to arrive.
The problem is that no-one seems to be leaning on them as you would have to angle your body to position yourself correctly with the added risk that you might slip off.
The Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (Imtac) – a committee of disabled people and older people that advises Government in Northern Ireland on travel and transport issues – told me that they didn’t approve the designs but did have an input. In a tweet to me they said: “Advice is always to provide a mix of seating types where possible. Bench seating needs to have armrests to provide support for some people when sitting down or getting up.”
When I asked Imtac how did the leaning bar benefit older or disabled people, they replied in a Tweet:
“See pages 63 & 64 re guidance for seating and transport infrastructure” – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/3695/inclusive-mobility.pdf
I went to the pages. The most relevant part said: “Although conventional seating to the dimensions given above will meet the needs of most disabled people, there are some who find perch-type seating, against which people half lean and half sit, easier to use.”
I then sent a Tweet to Translink to see if they could shed some light on the matter.
They tweeted back to me: “The halts will have mixed seating types, along with the seats you will have these ‘leaning post’ seating type.”
The problem is that the ‘perch-type seating’/’leaning bar’/’leaning post’ is obviously not a seat so why was it erected?
Another person tweeted me a link which provides some more background information.
Further research led me to another article which was headlined: The debate: Is hostile architecture designing people — and nature — out of cities? – https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/new-dean-harvey-james-furzer-hostile-architecture-debate/index.html
Some people argue that the unstated purpose of the ‘perch-type seating’/’leaning bar’/’leaning post’ is to deter people from hanging around the shelter, especially people who are homeless.
Many people protested when these leanings bars were introduced into the New York subway last year.
Some New Yorkers saw the bar as the latest salvo in what could be called the War on Sitting. As cities around the world tear out benches in an effort to deter homeless people from sleeping and drug dealers from hovering, or to force loiterers to move along, pedestrians and bus/train users may find fewer and fewer places to sit down and relax, or hang out and watch the world go by—and that’s bad news not only for tired feet, but for city life itself.
Maybe Translink could rethink its design.
I have a suggestion. Install a bench instead of these perch-style seating/leaning bars/leaning posts
Sometimes you just need to sit down as you await the arrival of the new Glider bus.
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