Back in 2010, Eric Pickles made the news headlines by calling for councils to get rid of unnecessary street clutter in a bid to make streets tidier and less confusing for motorists and pedestrians.
He claimed that our streets were becoming obstacles courses. So, as well as reducing street signage and traffic signal poles, this also led some local authorities to remove metal railings and pedestrian guardrail.
Fast forward to 2018, and a number of towns and cities have found the need to install hostile vehicle fencing, railings and barriers as a way to prevent terror attacks such as the one which occurred on Westminster Bridge on 22 March 2017.
The latest location to have hostile vehicle barriers installed are the roads around Trent Bridge Cricket Ground in Nottingham. This has caused lots of controversy with local residents who are annoyed at having to have what they believe are ugly monstrosities spoiling their neighbourhood.
Birmingham City Centre has also recently had huge yellow bollards and barriers installed to prevent vehicles accessing pedestrianised zones. This too has angered local residents.
So, it would seem that attractive pedestrian guardrail has to go, only to be replaced in certain high risk locations with huge unsightly concrete or metal barriers.
Going back to the question as to whether the street cluttering policy has worked or not, there is growing evidence that this de-cluttering policy has reduced accidents because cars and pedestrians are more aware and visibility has been improved through the removal of too many signal posts at junctions.
But could the street cluttering policy have made it easier for a hostile to launch an attack on innocent pedestrians? And is it really necessary to install such heavy duty barriers?
Phil Ball, Sales Director from Alpha Rail commented, “We are not suggesting that pedestrian guardrail is in anyway a suitable replacement for the hostile vehicle barrier, as their purpose is to guide pedestrians to safe crossing points, not act as a crash barrier. However, if pedestrian guardrail was installed, we believe that this would certainly deter a vehicle from trying to mount the pavement to cause injury to pedestrians.”
He added, “As you may expect, we believe, pedestrian guardrail is a more attractive solution, in situations where aesthetics really need to be considered. Ideally, without putting lives at risk. We’d like to see councils and highways planners consider pedestrian guardrail as an alternative solution to these unsightly hostile vehicle barriers.”
In summary, pedestrian guardrail won’t stop a determined driver from crashing their vehicle through at high speed, but as a deterrent, they could be a much more attractive alternative. The street de-cluttering policy is seemingly restricting the use of more attractive railings in locations where they may be used instead of hostile barriers to maintain aesthetics.