‘They get in the way’: Manchester rebels against gray advertising boxes | Manchester

Eearlier this year Manchester City Council declared its ambition to become a pedestrian paradise. “We want walking to be the main means of moving people in the city center”, proclaimed the town hall. transport plan. “Roadways and public spaces will be of high quality, well maintained, green and accessible – for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. “

Yet this fall, 86 mysterious gray boxes were placed on city sidewalks, which did much the opposite. Measuring more than a meter in diameter, the metal monoliths clogged the sidewalk, failing what transport engineers call “the double buggy test” while upsetting wheelchair users and aesthetes.

The Mancunians, who normally like to choose a side, were exceptionally unanimous: they hated boxes. They were not appeased when the council stuck large labels on the front explaining that these were temporary features “as part of the installation of enhanced digital advertising screens.” The boxes, apparently, were covers to protect the wiring while the new palisades were connected to the mains.

Monday evening, an inhabitant of the crusade decided to organize a pedestrian response. Armed with a stack of paper and wallpaper paste, they stuck advertising posters on at least 30 of the advertising boxes.

Some took inspiration from the radical history of Manchester by updating a suffragette slogan to point out the chasm between council’s rhetoric and its actions. “Words: ‘Walking will be the main means of getting around the city’; Acts: “Go fuck the pedestrians, here’s a big gray box.” ” read one. Another just said, “Fuck those stupid boxes.

Poetry was not. But this act of revenge quickly garnered approval not only from Mancunians, but also pedestrians across the country who feel like they are fighting a losing battle over the space of the roadway.

Whether it’s electric car charging cables acting as trigger wires, beer garden tables, or ordinary old antisocial parking lots making walking a nightmare, there is growing resentment about the encroachment of clutter on sidewalks – especially at one time when the government tries to get more people out of their cars and roll them on two feet or two wheels.

Tom Brooke, a 32-year-old nurse, on Tuesday took pictures of one of the clubs in Piccadilly Gardens to show his friends “because they look ridiculous”. He doesn’t drive and likes to walk: “They get in the way and what’s the point of more advertising? We already have a lot of advertisements in the city, ”he said.

Nadia Kerr, a lawyer who specializes in representing cyclists after accidents, said that while cycling recently, she almost collided with a pedestrian who had entered the road to avoid the gray box of doom. “I was sympathetic to her options, although she should have looked before heading onto the bike path,” she said. “Street congestion is a real problem and requires good planning, like any other public domain. “

Bev Craig, who will become Manchester City Council chief next week, said she could understand the hypocrisy allegations but the ad paid the cash-strapped local authority £ 2.5million in rent each year – plus “between a few hundred thousand and half a million in profits per year”.

Turning down £ 3million hasn’t been easy at a time when the council had to cut £ 40.7million next year’s budget after 11 years of government cuts, she added.

Of the 86 sites, 81 had housed old backlit paper columns and advertising units for 20 years, a council spokesperson said. Planning was granted for the improvements after considering “the road safety for each individual unit as well as the historical impact of their location, including the way pedestrians move on the freeway”.

Chris Boardman, the Olympic cyclist-turned-travel commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “The councils face competing demands, and one of them is the urgent need to raise funds. Advertising in public spaces is a reasonable way to meet this need. But I don’t think that should or should be to the detriment of those who travel on foot.

“To help everyone, there must be a comprehensive plan that ensures that all departments involved in maintaining our streets know that pedestrians don’t just need to be welcomed, they need to be valued and prioritized. I think that with a minimum of imagination and strong political leadership, it is perfectly possible and practical to achieve both results.

Stephen Edwards, Acting CEO of Living Streets, the traveling charity, said: “Our sidewalks should be wide enough so that everyone can pass each other easily. When sidewalks are blocked, it forces people to enter the roadway and traffic. Our research shows that people are more likely to get out and support their local economy when their streets are not congested. “



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