In November 2017, a truck killed eight pedestrians and injured a dozen in Manhattan. It was later identified as a terrorist attack led by a 29-year-old man, who rented a pickup truck to drive down a busy bike lane just across from the World Trade Center. Since this wasn’t the first time in 2017 that an incident of the sort had happened – in May 2017, a driver high on K2 (synthetic marijuana) drove three blocks on a Midtown Manhattan sidewalk, killing one tourist and injuring 22 others – the New York City municipality came to the realization that a painted bike lane or a sidewalk is obviously not enough to protect pedestrians. Two months after the November attack, the municipality announced plans to install 1,500 metal bollards to prevent such attacks and protect pedestrians and cyclists.
The project, which, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio involves more than the bollards, will cost the municipality $50 million. Other than Times Square, the bollards will be installed at (yet) unidentified public spaces that are considered high-risk and may easily be attacked by vehicles. According to city officials, installing all the barriers will take a few years – although they refused to divulge more details.
“That was necessary to immediately secure those areas in light of these new trends we’ve seen,” the mayor said in a conference last week. “But we knew we needed long-term solutions, we needed permanent barriers. People have to be able to get around, but they have to be safe at the same time,” the mayor added. City officials believe that bollards are more pedestrian-friendly since they will allow pedestrians to move more freely than the bulky and cumbersome concrete barriers which were installed temporarily right after the attacks.
Even though the project has potential, many officials and advocates of New York City believe that what would make Times Square safer is making it a car-free area. Several cities around the world are banning cars from their city centers, such as Oslo, Madrid, and Chengdu in China, to name a few. In New York, inspired by Bogotá’s Ciclovia, an old neighborhood in Manhattan goes car-free, paving a safe path for cyclists on Earth Day. Arguably, a car-free public space isn’t a safe haven either; after all, 2017 was Las Vegas’s deadliest year for homicides in the city’s modern history, with all homicides carried out by mass shooters on foot rather than in vehicles.