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Manchester is England’s fifth-largest city, and one of Europe’s fastest-growing population centres. Home to more than half a million people and visited by millions of tourists annually, Manchester’s city centre is a hotspot for UK business, culture and tourism alike.
Deansgate is one of the main routes for cars travelling into Manchester City Centre and is a bustling shopping district that is busy at all hours of the day.
When lockdown measures eased after the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester City Council wanted to find a way of encouraging pedestrians and workers back to the city centre while safely adhering to 2m social distancing guidelines.
Subsequently, part of Deansgate, which would usually accommodate a combination of vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist traffic, needed to be temporarily adapted to exclude vehicles and create a pedestrianised zone.
Pedestrianised zones are becoming increasingly important to city centre life, and offer a range of benefits, such as significantly improved air quality, more aesthetically pleasing public spaces and an increased sense of community.
A major consideration for the Deansgate project was how to balance the benefits of pedestrianisation with the additional security considerations it brings. Namely, these revolve around potentially putting the population at increased risk of attack by taking more people out of their vehicles and creating more densely populated public spaces.
Another important consideration when it comes to pedestrianisation is how to preserve the aesthetic appeal of public spaces while ensuring they are safe and secure, without creating a damaging “fortress mentality” that can increase the public’s fear of attack.
The Surface Guard’s crowd-permeable design and cycle-friendly ramps mean it can protect pedestrians without hampering or obstructing their movement. Being lightweight and quick to deploy, the Surface Guard is ideal for temporary or semi-permanent schemes.
This lightweight construction and rapid redeployment capability also allows for controlled vehicle access in the event of an emergency, enabling ambulance, police or fire services to enter the zone if required.
On top of this, the Surface Guard provides crash-test-certified security, having been impact tested to the IWA 14 standard. This means that the barrier has been proven to stop a 2,500kg vehicle – such as a multi-purpose or light commercial vehicle – travelling at a speed of 48kph, and to stop a 7,200kg vehicle – an HGV – travelling at 32 kph.
Once deployed, our Surface Guard barriers remained in place throughout the scheme, keeping pedestrians and cyclists safe and ensuring that Deansgate remained functional, friendly and inclusive to all residents and visitors.
When it comes to pedestrianisation, different security measures will be more suited to different schemes, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. While bollards and barriers will be best-suited for some, other solutions will be more suited to schemes which need a less visible security presence.
For example, crash-tested street furniture, such as benches and planters, create a pleasant environment for residents and visitors, driving footfall to the space and the businesses that inhabit it (which will be crucial for shopping districts such as Deansgate moving forwards) while also providing protection against vehicle ram-raid attacks.
Deploying these in conjunction with more robust access measures will be key to protecting our public spaces moving forwards, with the balance deployed dependent on the needs of the project.