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Security doesn’t have to be an eye-sore

How can security solutions be designed to be both effective and aesthetically pleasing? Security doesn’t have to be an eye-sore, writes Gavin Hepburn, director at ATG Access, a UK manufacturer of road blockers, bollards and barriers.

Last year saw Europe experience a series of appalling terror attacks. In March, London suffered a horrific attack when an assailant mounted the curb on Westminster Bridge and drove into crowds, before exiting on foot and killing a police officer. Then in April, Stockholm experienced a similar attack, as a truck drove down a busy shopping street towards crowds. And in August, Barcelona also fell victim to an attack, as terrorists again used a vehicle to cause harm to civilians. The incidents of 2017 brought to light why physical security in public areas needed to be rapidly improved, especially given that vehicles became the new weapon of choice for terrorists to commit fatal attacks.

However, it is no longer just terrorists that are looking to use vehicles to commit appalling acts. Since the turn of the year, two vehicle attacks have been carried out by people without terrorist intent, one in Canada’s capital city of Toronto and one in the German city of Muenster – a popular tourist destination. What both incidents had in common were that they were carried out by people who had a history of mental health issues. Again, this has highlighted that an attack can never be ruled out and that governments need to install appropriate security measures to prevent further attacks from happening – which they are now doing.

What security measures are being introduced to prevent vehicle attacks?

Following the tragic terror attack on Westminster Bridge last year, the Government quickly acted to install large concrete barriers to prevent vehicles from mounting the curb. The large barriers stretch the full length of the bridge on both sides, and at each ends, large concrete blocks have been installed to further safeguard the pathways. Meanwhile, just days after the recent attack in Toronto, large concrete barriers were installed around the city’s main train stations, as a deterrent to prevent vehicles from driving along a public pathway. Despite this attack not being terror-related, Canadian officials have installed the barriers to ward off future attacks from individuals that may think the city is an easy target.

While the barriers in both London and Toronto have added an additional layer of protection to the affected areas and popular hotspots, they aren’t without their problems. In particular, the size of these traditional concrete structures can actually cause unwanted obstructions to the general public. For instance, when the barriers were placed down on Westminster Bridge, the cycle lanes had to be narrowed to make way for them. This is now forcing cyclists to cycle close to or into the path of moving vehicles.

But, it’s not just the size of the barriers that is causing a problem. The appearance of the intrusive concrete deterrents presents the danger of creating a ‘fortress’ styled environment, where city-goers become anxious in their own surroundings. In eye-catching locations, such as the recently targeted German city of Muenster, which attracts over 600,000 tourists per year, the placement of heavy duty concrete barriers may not be the most appropriate solution. These structures wouldn’t be in keeping with the gothic setting of Muenster and could in fact deter people away, instead of encouraging them to continue to visit.

The primary purpose of physical security measures is to protect, but this doesn’t mean that they need to be intimidating, intrusive or harsh on the eye. When looking at the design of physical security, there must be a balance between effective security and aesthetic needs. Although it may require greater innovation or well-thought out planning, creating non-invasive solutions is possible.

Impact tested bollards are a great example of solutions that can be fully integrated into their surrounding by blending them in with street furniture or landscaping objects. For instance, at Marina Bay in Singapore, bollards have been incorporated into plant pots, which to the naked eye, look like carefully designed products. This way, people can’t detect that they are in fact security solutions to prevent vehicles from mounting the pavements. At Changi Airport in Singapore, a selection of metal bollards outside the main terminal entrances have also been turned into uniquely styled plant pots that can effectively bring a moving vehicle to a halt, whilst adding an element of beauty to the area.

In Melbourne, heavy duty, concrete blocks were placed around the city to prevent further incidents, following the vehicle attack that occurred in December 2017 where a car drove through a busy shopping mall. However, the citizens of Melbourne deemed the measures to be an eye sore, so in an attempt to improve the aesthetic look of the blocks, people decided to decorate them with handmade covers.

Of course, the onus should not be on the public to improve the design of security measures, instead that responsibility should lie with government and security officials. The technology is already available for security measures to be covered with bespoke sleeves to help them blend into the surrounding environment. For instance, at the Renaissance Hotel in London, shallow mounted bollards have been installed that have been covered in a bespoke burgundy sleeve. The result allows the modern security measures to fit in with the traditional look of the Grade I listed building, whilst keeping it secure.

The world has become a much more vulnerable place over the past couple of years, as cities across the world have fallen victim to a surge of vehicle attacks. The result has left security officials with a difficult challenge of predicting and preventing further attacks. But while governments have acted to implement security measures to help keep people safe, the presence of them runs the risk of creating an anxious atmosphere for the public who just want to carry on with their daily lives. As future attacks can never be ruled out, it is important that appropriate permanent solutions are installed that can keep people safe, whilst not making them uneasy in their surroundings. If not, then cities may soon begin to push people away, instead of pulling them in.



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