How can cities prevent van attacks?

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What can cities do to prevent a van or lorry attack?

Cities can do more to prevent van or lorry attacks.

Make vehicles harder to rent

Most above-board vehicle rental companies don’t rent out lorries to random people. Or do they? Google offers pages of self-drive lorry rental opportunities. What do you need? A passport and a driver’s license.

Allowing access to terror lists could increase violence against lease agents, and step on free speech toes. But an alert system, in real time, is an option that airports have used for years. Sure, there can be mistakes (Sorry, Salman Rushdie) A regularly updated international alert system could save lives.

Make it harder to get to pedestrian spaces

Bollards (those phallic concrete thingies) don’t have to be beastly. Cities can improve safety and sightlines using strong wrap-around structures combined with trees.

Hopefully in time, as in the trees grow into car-killers, the threat of terrorism will be gone, leaving behind mere beauty.


Arsenal bollards are ARSENAL!

A football stadium in London wanted crowd control, without prison camp overtones. It did the trick with ginormous letters spelling out the team name: ARSENAL. Cambridge has piles of books in bronze.

Moving targets

Bourbon Street in New Orleans has metre-high, day-glo cylindrical bollards, locked into place every evening around 8, after service vehicles have drained the area of detritus and refilled it with booze. Careful, sunset-drinking gents of a certain height!

Got a seasonal event in a street otherwise dominated by cars? Have the cops park their own vans in a prophylactic way. (Festival cops usually park their vehicles out of sight) Let the bad guys know that there is an active police presence through a highly-visible van barricade. Want something less intimidating, and more fun for the public? A fire truck! Red Rover this, evildoers.

Identifying issues

Cities can’t prevent crazy people from crashing into pizzerias. And they can’t make every street an obstacle course. But cities can act now to prevent future tragedies. When bean counters moan about budget, urban planners can point to the long-term hit that tourism takes every time there’s an attack. Places that don’t invest in terror prevention stand to lose millions in tourist money.

More on articles on safety:

Surviving riots and protests

What to do in a hotel attack

How to hone your skills of observation

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.