Put the pieces of metal in the right place, and they can help protect lives.
New York City saw bollards in action in May, when a 26-year-old Bronx man with a mental health history and drugs in his system drove a car through a crowd of pedestrians in Times Square — killing one and injuring more than 20. His rampage might have been deadlier but the car stopped when it crashed into a bollard, a small and sturdy metal post placed to keep vehicles off crowded walkways.
Then there was the tragedy on Halloween, when a 29-year-old Uzbek native rented a truck to wreak ISIS-inspired terror on the greenway along the West Side Highway. He killed eight, including a group of tourists from Argentina. Bollards hadn’t been installed along this route, so the driver had an open path.
Right afterward, bulky and obtrusive concrete barriers were placed along the path to protect walkers and bikers.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio took another step, announcing more than $50 million in funding for 1,500 bollards and other permanent safety installations throughout New York City. The City Council also passed legislation last year requiring oversight of bollards.
Thoughtful street design is a positive step to protect New Yorkers from errant or viciously aimed vehicles. Bollards can be equally important in disrupting terror attacks, drug-addled rides, and disoriented or bad drivers.
These installations should be well-planned to prevent them from interfering with pedestrian traffic or the city landscape. The price tag for the proposed 1,500 bollards is not insignificant, and every effort should be made to install the devices in useful places, perhaps in some places including retractable bollards, which are not designated in the current batch.
Bollards bolster the defense of our public spaces, but nothing will ever be a total safeguard. Perhaps bollards and other innovative designs will provide a sense of security to the New Yorkers and tourists who populate city streets. That’s a big benefit from small but smart changes.
May they never need to be put to use.