Op-Ed: Public Seating Is for Everyone

Seating in the public realm often isn’t designed to accommodate varied body types, ages, and abilities.

1 minute read

April 9, 2024, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Anti homeless bench

Laurie Avocado / flickr

In an op-ed in Next City, Alanah Nichole Davis calls on cities to consider how street furniture and public seating accommodate — or don’t — people of various body types.

For those at the intersection of factors like weight, pregnancy, age and disability, the challenge of finding suitable public seating can disrupt a sense of belonging and inhibit our ability to thrive. Something as simple as taking a walk in a park or meeting a friend for lunch may become a daunting task due to design shortcomings in open spaces.

Davis cites programs in cities like Boston and New York aimed at making public seating more accessible. Boston’s age-friendly bench initiative installs benches that make sitting and standing easier for elderly people near key destinations.  

Davis poses the argument another way: “Hostile architecture and defensive design are known for discouraging humans who might be unhoused from staying in an area for too long. But if an armrest, chair width or other seating features discourage varied body types — whether housed or unhoused residents or visitors — from sitting comfortably in our cities, isn’t that hostile, too?”

Monday, April 8, 2024 in Next City

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Digital drawing of person holding city skyline with wifi symbols and lines indicating smart cities or data.

Cities Awarded for Data-Driven Projects

The What Cities Works Certification recognizes cities for using data to solve real problems.

June 21 - Smart Cities Dive

The Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose, California.

Faith-Based Housing Movement Grows

More churches and municipalities are saying ‘Yes in God’s Backyard.’

June 21 - Vox

Close-up of red and white BUS LANE sign painted in street lane.

Why BRT Can Benefit Cities More Than Rail

Bus rapid transit lines offer a less expensive, quicker-build alternative to rail that can bring other infrastructure improvements with it.

June 21 - Governing

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.