Plymouth war hero Ben McBean to unveil city's new Portrait Bench 28th March 2013
Former Royal Marine and double amputee Ben McBean is to unveil the new 'Portrait Bench' in Plymouth's North Cross on Thursday.
The bench, which has been installed as part of a makeover of the walking and cycling facilities in the area, features three life-size figures chosen by the local community to celebrate Plymouth's history and culture - including Marine McBean himself.
Marine McBean's figure will represent Plymouth's servicemen and women, who won the highest number of votes cast by people living and working in the city. It will stand alongside figures of Scott of the Antarctic and Charles Darwin.
Marine McBean, who lives in Plymouth and went to Lipson Community College, lost an arm and a leg after stepping on a Taliban landmine in Afghanistan but has overcome his horrific injuries to inspire others. Not only is he in great demand as a motivational speaker and media commentator but he also pushes himself to the physical limit, running the London Marathon just 12 months after sustaining his injuries and later climbing to Everest Base Camp and completing the Three Peaks Challenge.
Prince Harry, who travelled back from Afghanistan on the same flight as Marine McBean, said he was humbled by his bravery and described Marine McBean as 'real hero.'
Councillor Philippa Davey, the Council's Cycling Commissioner, said "We're really pleased that Marine McBean will be unveiling the new Portrait Bench, which will pay tribute to his tremendous bravery and that of all the city's servicemen and women. It will be great to see figures chosen by local people to represent Plymouth taking pride of place in the new-look North Cross."
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Plymouth City Council, the Portrait Benches are part of a national project from cycling charity Sustrans, creating new everyday walking and cycling routes in communities across the UK.
Other improvements at North Cross include new trees, improved low energy lighting, new benches, reduced clutter and repaired and replaced paving slabs. North Cross sits at the centre of a network of new routes aimed at enabling more people to walk and cycle across the city with more routes are due to be built over the coming months.
After the unveiling of the Portrait Bench, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to explore parts of the walking and cycling routes by bike or on foot. Some of the people behind the network from Plymouth City Council and Sustrans will be on hand to discuss the new routes and future plans.
Councillor Coker said, There has been a big increase in people walking and cycling on this network and the new routes around North Cross are perfectly placed to boost numbers even further."
Adrian Roper from Sustrans said, "North Cross is the gateway to a great network of new routes that will make walking or cycling for everyday journeys an attractive option for many more people. Public art projects such as the Portrait Bench will help make these routes belong to the local community."
The work supports the wider Plymotion initiative, introducing new walking and cycling links to connect the east and west of the city from Devonport and Stonehouse through to Plympton and Plymstock. The routes will use off-road links and quiet roads and are being funded by the Department for Transport, The Big Lottery Fund, Plymouth City Council and Sustrans.