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Ugly Concrete Bollards Aren't The Only Things Protecting Our Cities

The new barricades have divided public opinion, but many of our cities have existing features that have dual purposes.

01/07/2017 4:03 PM AEST | Updated 01/07/2017 4:03 PM AEST

It would appear that over the last week, Australia's capital cities have suddenly become the home to large concrete bollards installed in an effort to prevent potential hostile vehicle-style attacks seen recently in London, Nice, Stockholm and Berlin.

Public opinion on the concrete barricades is divided, with some questioning whether "barbed wire" will be next, while others have defended the anti-terror measures.

Even the NSW Police Minister Troy Grant recently accused Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, of "causing unnecessary panic and confusion" after claiming that the state government was not consulted prior to the installation of the barricades in Martin Place.

LARISSA HAM / FAIRFAX
New concrete bollards installed overnight greeted Melbourne's commuters last Friday morning.

David Barden
The City of Sydney followed Melbourne's lead, installing temporary anti-terror barricades last Friday afternoon.

However, Rodger Watson, deputy director of Designing Out Crime, contends that while the bollards are "cheap and quick to deploy", they're not the only things that are protecting Australia's cities from potential vehicle attacks, with many of Sydney's seemingly innocuous features serving dual purposes.

"There's a whole bunch of things you can deploy ... not just from an aesthetic point of view but from a functionality point of view," he told HuffPost Australia.

"[It] seems like the City of Sydney was motivated to do something. They're temporary bollards and I think a broader discussion of what the threat is and the most appropriate response needs to happen," he said.

David Barden
Lloyd Rees Fountain, otherwise known as the "Matrix Fountain", serves a dual purpose.

David Barden
The Sir Leslie Morshead Memorial Fountain at the entrance to Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens also serves as a deterrent.

According to Watson, some of the city's existing infrastructure can help mitigate the risks that a hostile vehicle might pose, such as street furnishings and public art.

"If you look at them, you wouldn't think it was an anti-terror thing," he said.

In Martin Place alone, features such as the Lloyd Rees Fountain, also aid in "hostile vehicle mitigation" (HVM), while Watson added that "even the kiosks that the City of Sydney leases out to florists and small convenience shops" could be designed and installed in a way to help HVM.

"There is a trend of these events happening in the world and I think it is important that people in positions of responsibility respond appropriately and I would see these bollards as a first response."

David Barden
Watson said that the City of Sydney could consider designing and installing kiosks that also act as barriers from potential attacks.

David Barden
Public art can be used as another way to prevent potential hostile vehicle attacks.

A City of Sydney spokesperson told HuffPost Australia the barricades "will be replaced with more permanent measures" that will "strengthen security and ensure our public spaces are attractive".

Watson said it would be crucial that the City engages in a broader discussion of what the threat is and the most appropriate action to take before introducing such measures.

"If you have a look at any space, there's just so many stakeholders involved that the only way to navigate that complexity is engaging the people and talking about that problem and trying to solve it collectively."

The entrance to Sydney's Conservatorium of Music was singled out by both Watson and the 'Safe Places' guide, published jointly by the NSW Police Force Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command and Designing out Crime, as both an effective and aesthetically pleasing HVM measure.

"The combination of sandstone blocks and metal bollards installed on the edge of the roadway provides good protection for pedestrians against an out-of-control vehicle," the report read.

"Removable metal bollards are necessary to permit access to the space by emergency and maintenance vehicles."

David Barden

David Barden
Not as ugly or obvious as concrete barricades, but just as effective.

Gold Coast City Council has also announced that it would install 16 "heavy duty retractable bollards to protect visitors and residents at large scale outdoor events" by the end of 2017, in preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Watson warned that HVM however, isn't a "one-size fits all" and that while the installation of anchored bollards may seem like an attractive idea, the reality is far more complex.

"One of the complexities in the city of Sydney is there is a rail network running underneath so not every location could use that type of bollard because it goes deep down and if you go too far down, even at Martin Place, you end up punching through the roof of the railway station," he said.

"These bollards are pretty ugly and I really think that they're probably a stop-gap until a proper well more thought through response can be implemented."


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