A brief history of the bumproof bench

by wechslerh66


The latest from London courtesy of the Guardian:

Metal studs have been installed outside a block of flats in central London to deter rough sleepers…The installation of the studs outside the flats on Southwark Bridge Road provoked widespread condemnation on Twitter with users claiming homeless people were being treated like vermin because similar metal spikes are used to deter pigeons.

As Ethical Pioneer noted, it seems to be a trend.

For a pre-Rodney King riots LA flashback to the original “bumproof bench,” here’s Mike Davis c. 1990:

One of the most common, but mind-numbing, of these deterrents is the Rapid Transit District’s new barrelshaped bus bench that offers a minimal surface for uncomfortable sitting, while making sleeping utterly impossible. Such ‘bumproof’ benches are being widely introduced on the periphery of Skid Row. Another invention, worthy of the Grand Guignol, is the aggressive deployment of outdoor sprinklers. Several years ago the city opened a ‘Skid Row Park’ along lower Fifth Street, on a corner of Hell. To ensure that the park was not used for sleeping–that is to say, to guarantee that it was mainly utilized for drug dealing and prostitution–the city installed an elaborate overhead sprinkler system programmed to drench unsuspecting sleepers at random times during the night. The system was immediately copied by local businessmen in order to drive the homeless away from adjacent public sidewalks. Meanwhile restaurants and markets have responded to the homeless by building ornate enclosures to protect their refuse. Although no one in Los Angeles has yet proposed adding cyanide to the garbage, as happened in Phoenix a few years back, one popular seafood restaurant has spent $12,000 to build the ultimate bag-lady-proof trash cage: made of three-quarter inch steel rod with alloy locks and vicious outturned spikes to safeguard priceless moldering fishheads and stale french fries.

Draconian, unfair, unjust, and ugly in every sense, but legal? Anatole France as always has the last word: The poor have to labour in the face of the majestic equality of the law, which forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Mike Davis quote and photo from “Fortress L.A.,” in CITY OF QUARTZ, Verso, 1990