Recording whether benches have armrests


I live in the United Kingdom and a few years ago took part in a volunteer survey for my local council where we found and recorded as many benches as possible (sadly not on OSM). This brought to my attention the importance of knowing whether benches have armrests as well as backrests. Backrests offer support to people using the benches and armrests offer important assistance to people in getting on and off the bench - particularly those with restricted mobility. The council are looking to improve the accessibility of their infrastructure and so need to know accurate information about their current benches.

I have recently started to map benches in OSM and noticed that whilst many have backrest=yes/no, far fewer have armrest=yes/no. This is a fairly recently documented tag on the amenity=bench wiki page (I did not add it myself, although I have made several recent edits to this page) and is not included in the iD bench preset, which may partly explain its low usage.

I would like to encourage people to record armrest as well as backrest information for benches in OSM and would like to get a feel for whether using armrest=yes/no is the right way to do this.

A few of my own thoughts:

  • I don’t believe it is of particular value to record the number of armrests so a simple yes/no should be sufficient
    • Taginfo for armrest shows these are the most common values by some margin
    • Some benches are specifically designed so a wheelchair user can get on to them and have only one armrest. This information can be recorded separately with wheelchair=yes rather than trying to deduce it from the armrest count.
    • There is an argument for recording whether people can lie down on a bench but I believe this is better recorded separately rather than trying to deduce it from the number of armrests.

I’d appreciate people’s thoughts on this. It would be good to be able to achieve a consensus and then move forward to getting information included in presets and perhaps Street Complete missions etc.




Seems as reasonable as anything else does to me.

It looks like someone is attempting to get it added there:

Might make sense for someone to see about getting it added to JOSM too, or at least making a custom preset file for it.

I’ll try to remember to do that when I next add some benches!

backrest is fortunately already being used by StreetComplete in its quests. Addiing armrest it would improve the tagging of the benches, by the people who use StreetComplete on the go.

And yes, iD about to get it aswell, so I guess soon (if the approval doesn’t get delayed enough).


Thanks for the comments so far. I should have mentioned the open iD issue - I created this and am awaiting responses.


1 Like

I’ve created #23694 (Add armrest tag to the default preset for amenity=bench) – JOSM for this now.

Nothing on Add armrest as a default field for amenity=bench · Issue #1226 · openstreetmap/id-tagging-schema · GitHub for iD etc yet.

I think we need some tags to define the numbers and positions of the armrests similar to handrail:left=* handrail:centre=* or with :lanes syntax, e.g. armrest=yes|yes|yes|no for a bench with an armrest on the left, two in the middle and none on the right side when sitting on the bench. But for a first shot I am fine with this simple tagging.


It may also be worth noting that some armrests are not entirely for the convenience of people sitting on benches - some are primarily there as hostile architecture.

See Proposal:Hostile Architecture


True, the contortions I’ve sometimes had to make to get my feet thru the armrest loop so to be able to sleep or relax a bit in an airport between flights are more than a few.

Seeing it coming as with steps, handrail left, handrail right, handrail centre, some longer benches have centre or multiple off end armrests. Me custom JOSM preset will be ready to handle in no time, and no having to submit a ticket to get JOSM or the beautificator to make a change :o)))


I don’t disagree with this and did touch upon it in my original post. However, there are still “good” reasons for benches to have armrests and good reasons to record this data. I see the recording of things like whether one can lie down on a bench as entirely separate to this as you can’t just deduce it from the number of armrests.


2 benches while on cycle survey,

0.1 seat.
4 seats (prox), no back- or armrests, BUT, power sockets it has.


And handy slits for your walking sticks. Hate it when they fall.

1 Like

For info, there’s currently a discussion about whether this is an appropriate question for a StreetComplete quest at Ask if benches have armrests · Issue #5664 · streetcomplete/StreetComplete · GitHub.

1 Like

From the StreetComplete unanswered picture cloud of a last year’s cycle survey. Is this a bench ;? No armrests for sure.

There’s a BIN at right and conveniently the glass wall is missing between seat 6 and the bin. Wrong way around as the soccer field is right behind them. Turn it around and you have a ‘smallstand’. The shelter certainly did not have a single marking it has a bus stop function, but then seen many hundreds along country roads mostly. Take a seat and the suburban or extraurban will stop. BTW not a construct to have a stretch and take a wink.

Is this not a bus stop? In which case it is highway=bus_stop and bench=yes. I would map the bin separately as it is not an integral part of the the bus stop.

I don’t believe there is currently a way of recording backrest and armrest information for such seating.

Todays cycle survey ‘harvest’ included this ‘artwork’ with translated words by Kofi Annan on violence against women… It stands since 25.11.2021 in Caramanico Terme, passed quite a few times, never paid special attention since the little town has many streetside dressing pieces in all sorts of forms.

Seats=0 as noone ever sets down here.

Regarding the use of armrests as hostile architecture. This is commonly refered to (online and in the US at least) as a “middle bar” “middle armrest” “center bar” etc. so adding that as a separate tag would be good.


Whatever it’s configuration, it is still a shelter containing a bench. I would map seats using the lanes method as suggested earlier, backrest=bucket|bucket|bucket|bucket|bucket. Someone else is welcome to suggest a better for bucket style seating.

Any information recorded about a bus shelter’s bench would need a prefix to show that it applies to the bench and not the bus shelter. Something like bench:backrest etc

If you did want to record the pictured “bench” using the currently documented tags I would say it was bench:seats:6, bench:armrest=no, bench:backrest=yes. I would not try and put information about the type of individual seat into the backrest tag. This would need something new.

Mapping bus shelter seating types and individual seat information is likely quite complex. I’d prefer to keep this thread more on the topic of standalone bench armrests if that’s okay.

If you want to get into detailed tagging you can create separate objects for the shelter (amenity=shelter shelter=public_transport), the bench and the bin and add all three as members with empty role to the stop_area relation of the bus stop.