YESTERDAY, just before 4pm, I thought I was dead. I clasped my hands around the tallest of the five poles which make up Darlington’s Life Pulse and looked up into the beautiful blue sky.

Nothing happened.

The pads on the pole were supposed to read my heart through my hands and turn it into a bright, beating light at the top of the pole.

This, according to the artist’s website, would “encourage a moment of encounter where participants reveal their innermost workings. Through the ritualistic process of setting their own heartbeat in light the users conjoin with the sculpture to create a kinetic form, part human, part technological”.

And possibly fatal. I had no heartbeat in light, I had no innermost workings. I was kinetically, if not clinically, dead.

This week, Life Pulse appears to have killed off the attempts of the overlooking café – technically a “luncheonette” – to form an al fresco sitting area amid its poles. A council committee has decided that, for health and safety reasons, the poles are too dangerous for people, including the disabled, to negotiate their way around while in possession of something as dangerous as a lukewarm cappuccino. Half of Darlington could be killed by a tsunami of spilled froth at any instant.

In seriousness, there is in this corner of Blackwellgate a confusion of levels, and the poles may not help – but should public art be allowed to stand in the way of entrepreneurial spirit, particularly as every councillor claims that a flourishing café culture is the future of the town centre, and particularly as I’ve never warmed to these particular poles?

They were erected 11 years ago as part of the Pedestrian Heart scheme, which was designed by Dr Michael Pinsky, who described himself as an “urban planner, activist, researcher, resident and artist". I think his circular bowl around Joseph Pease’s statue is a great success, and I quite like the broad walk of High Row, and the water cascade outside the market in which the water cascades down a torrent of vertical lines – some thick, some thin. This pattern is repeated on the nearby grey stone blocks, and Dr Pinsky told me in 2007 that these are giant barcodes. If I had a giant barcode reader, he said, it would tell me the name of the material used and how much it cost, as a nod to the market.

I have never found a barcode reader big enough to test whether this works.

Of the five poles in Blackwellgate, he said: "I'd been working on Life Pulse for a few years for another site which never really came off, but when I heard this was called the Pedestrian Heart, it seemed a really good fit.”

While I admire other aspects of the scheme, that annoyed me. I think public art should be a unique response to its surroundings. It should be inspired by its locality. I don’t think it should be a recycled gimmick transplanted from elsewhere to fill an awkward corner.

Since 2007, Dr Pinsky appears to have reused his blinking idea in other, medical, locations. “When patients visit a doctor or nurse their pulse is recorded,” says his website. “It is at this point that patients surrender their body to the medical professional… Life Pulse with its clean, clinical aesthetic mimics the authority of the medical services.”

In a medical setting, a fully functional Life Pulse may have meaning; on Blackwellgate, an ill-maintained Life Pulse is cluttering up the street.

Yesterday, when I tried two of the other poles, they did flash out a heartbeat, but it seemed to be someone else’s pulse which bore no relation to the pounding in my chest. The final two poles did beat to my rhythm, so perhaps 40 per cent of me is alive – reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

But I’d clear out the clutter of Life Pulse and let the café owners try and bring real life to the town centre.