The crash barriers have been going up all over Manhattan—not directly because of Tuesday’s Islamist terrorist attack on bicyclists and pedestrians, but in ad hoc attempts to prevent such violence. The Halloween afternoon carnage certainly means more such obstacles will be coming, to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from such attacks. These incremental efforts to secure the streets work, and unlike many other efforts to prevent terror—such as long lines at airport security—they have ancillary benefits, rather than costs. Protecting pedestrians against terror protects them from more common accidental street carnage, too.
New York and many other cities are already familiar with the vehicle-as-weapon. In May, Richard Rojas, a Navy vet, rammed his car into a Times Square crowd, not because he was a radical Muslim but because he was mentally ill, angry, on drugs, or some combination of the three. He killed 18-year-old tourist Alyssa Elsman and critically injured four others. That attack was bad enough, but it could have been worse; anti-terror bollards—short metal posts placed together closely in a line—stopped Rojas from moving further into the dense area.
White nationalist James Fields, Jr., used his car to murder Heather Heyer in Charlottesville this past August. Europe, too, has seen attacks by similar angry young men who have embraced extremism. Radical Islamists have killed pedestrians in London, Barcelona, and Berlin in the past year. After each attack, New York, always observant of global trends, has responded by visibly altering its streetscape. Large cement blocks now keep drivers separate from walkers on sidewalks in Times Square; New Yorkers and tourists have adopted them as places to sit and check their phones. St. Patrick’s Cathedral recently received large stones to line its sidewalks and protect crowds from Fifth Avenue drivers, and Rockefeller Center, across the street, has heavy planters. Trump Tower, of course, got its anti-vehicle barriers last November, on Election Day. Europe, too, has altered its streets: in Paris, new bollards protect visitors to the Louvre’s pedestrian plaza.
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