Are bollards the answer?

By Chelsea Cucinotta

In June this year, five-tonne concrete bollards were installed in prominent city locations including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station and the Queen Victoria Market. 

The blocks were installed to prevent future vehicle-based terror attacks in CBD hotspots similar to the January Bourke Street Mall incident, in which six people died.

Questions have been raised however, regarding the effectiveness of these temporary counter-terrorist structures, after an Albury man took a wrong turn onto tram tracks in Bourke Street Mall a month ago despite the existing bollards in place.

University of Warwick professor in urban geography, Jon Coaffee, said: “Bollards are not necessarily the default solution, although in some circumstances they are the most appropriate responses. But their impact on liveability and quality of life issue should be considered.”

“Many cities have effectively used retractable bollards as part of broader traffic management or pedestrianisation, but there have been incidents where emergency vehicles have been denied entry, or where vehicles have literally been ‘skewered’ on the bollards,” he said.

While the government has allocated $10 million to the project, it is unknown when the makeover will take place.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said the concrete blocks would be replaced by permanent treatments once designs were finalised.

“The bollards and barriers provide improved safety for pedestrians. The permanent treatments will boost security in the CBD, while still keeping our city streets attractive,” the spokesperson said.

In the meantime, the interim structures have had a Melburnian-makeover, with many now decorated in “bollart”.

A bollard has been covered in Lego in “Pieces for Peace” on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth streets, while several structures on the corner of Bourke and Swanston streets are painted in black and red with the political slogan #StopAdani. Artist David Gray has also engaged with the bollards, creating colourful knitted-covers for those at Southern Cross Station.

Whether or not the new structures will be welcomed in the same light and transformed into works of public art remains to be seen.

The council spokesperson said: “As a member of the Melbourne CBD Security Steering Group, we have been working closely with State Government and Victoria Police on making our city safer.”

“Our number one priority is community safety and security, for everyone who visits, works and lives in the city.”

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