A whodunnit involving football pitches, desire lines, and a broken arm

Here’s a puzzle for you.

In a district council we worked with, there was a new housing estate nicely situated near to the commuter train station.

There were a few council-maintained football pitches in the way (part of a leafy park which was a big attraction for home-owners), but the council had the developers build a new and pleasant footpath around the edges.

It quickly became clear, however, that the ‘desire path’ for the commuters to the station was directly across two of the pitches, carving out unpleasant ruts.

The sports clubs started to complain, it looked a mess, and the council even got a few letters from commuters aggrieved that their shoes had got muddy.

So what do you think they did?

>> There’s a ‘wrong answer’ that they persisted with some time.

(Hint: it involved a broken arm and something threatening to sue).

>> And a ‘better answer’ after a lot of thinking and engagement with the local people (which we assisted with)

It’s useful to think of ‘customer demand’ – people’s natural desire to meet their purposes – as being like water: you have to expect that it will flow following natural routes.

You have to be realistic about where the demand actually is going, and take decisive action about that – if you’re close off routes, do it decisively and early in a way that works – otherwise, deal with the reality.

I’d love to hear your answers!

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