Following months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdown measures beginning to be eased, Manchester City Council wanted to find a way of encouraging pedestrians and workers back to the city centre while safely adhering to 2m social distancing guidelines.
Subsequently, part of Manchester’s bustling Deansgate, which would usually accommodate a combination of vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist traffic, needed to be temporarily adapted to exclude vehicles in a process known as pedestrianisation.
The benefits of pedestrianisation, such as significantly improved air quality, more aesthetically pleasing public spaces and an increased sense of community, have already been felt during the lockdown as more of the population use public spaces to exercise, rather than using cars or public transport.
Indeed, studies have already shown that air quality has improved to the extent that 11,000 deaths have been prevented across Europe during lockdown.
A major consideration for the Deansgate project was how to balance these benefits with the additional security considerations pedestrianisation brings. Namely, these revolve around potentially putting the population at increased risk of attack by taking more people out of their vehicles and creating more densely populated public spaces.
Another important consideration when it comes to pedestrianisation is how to preserve the aesthetic appeal of public spaces while ensuring they are safe and secure without creating a damaging “fortress mentality” that can increase the public’s fear of attack.
Physical security solutions, such as barriers and bollards, are crucial to securing public spaces and deterring would-be attackers; particularly those considering hostile vehicle attacks, which can target crowds of people with equipment (vehicles) that many of us already have access to.
It's crowd permeable design and cycle-friendly ramps mean it can protect pedestrians while not hampering or obstructing their movement. Also, being lightweight and quick to deploy, the Surface Guard lends itself to temporary or semi-permanent schemes.
In the past, the Surface Guard has been used to secure such high profile events and public spaces as the Blackpool Switch-On and Blenheim Castle Christmas Market to name just a few. On top of this, the Surface Guard provides crash test certified security, having been impact tested to the IWA 14 standard.
However, different security measures will be more suited to different schemes, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. While bollards and barriers – such as our own Surface Guard system which has been deployed for the Deansgate project – will be best-suited for some, other solutions will be more suited to schemes which need a less visible security presence.
For example, crash-tested street furniture, such as benches and planters, create a pleasant environment for residents and visitors, driving footfall to the space and the businesses that inhabit it (which will be crucial for shopping districts such as Deansgate moving forwards) while also providing protection against vehicle ram-raid attacks. Deploying these in conjunction with more robust access measures will be key to protecting our public spaces moving forwards, with the balance deployed dependent on the needs of the project in question.
Overall, the challenge pedestrianisation creates will be finding sustainable ways to continue the benefits we have enjoyed so far while minimising threat levels. By working together as an industry to achieve this balance, we believe that Deansgate can become the first in a new wave of pedestrianised public spaces; functional, friendly and inclusive to all.
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