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In the wake of attacks in which vehicles have been rammed into pedestrians, Evanston Now asked city staff this week about security plans for the new plaza in Fountain Square that will eliminate traditional curbs between pedestrians and cars.

Within the past seven days there have been vehicle-ramming attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in two Spanish cities, and there’ve been at least a dozen other such attacks within the past two years around the world.

The Fountain Square project now under construction downtown features what Capital Planning Bureau Chief Lara Biggs describes as a “curbless shared street” designed to create “a more pedestrian-friendly environment for special events. gatherings and everyday use.”

She says that while curbs do help to define the separation between cars and pedestrians, they aren’t considered a safety feature for pedestrians and mainly control and direct storm water.

The new curbless street, Biggs says, will direct storm water away from the sidewalks instead of toward it.

New metal bollards being installed on Sherman Avenue, about 21 feet apart.

“The curbless street will also include a variety of visual cues to both drivers and pedestrians, including bollards, parking meters, planters and pavement material changes to help identify pedestrian and automobile zones,” she says.

Bollards, metal posts that in the fountain Square plan will have 42-inch deep concrete footings and be filled with concrete, are are one of the key tools used to protect against vehicle attacks.

Bollards more closely spaced near corners.

Biggs says that in Fountain Square the bollards will be spaced about 14-feet apart in the plazas and corners and about 21-feet apart through the rest of the area.

She says the bollards would stop a car that hit one, but that they aren’t spaced closely enough to act as a security barrier.

“To get them close enough together to provide a true security barrier would really change the visual feel of the block,” Biggs says.

“And while it could be done, you’d have to do the entire downtown, or the driver would just go one block over to do their damage,” she added.

“I don’t think the city is ready to do that yet. It’s only been a few locations where these attacks have actually taken place, although that doesn’t do much to diminish the horror of it.

“If these attacks start hitting closer to home,” Biggs said, “We may have to take it into consideration.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. other attacks

    There have been several cases where cars have rammed into black lives matter protesters in addition to what happened in Charlottesville. Hopefully the police will be able to put up some type of temporary barrier during protests that will inevitable take place in the square.

    1. Better Idea

      Down town Evanston does not have enough shopping that there is any reason for traffic in down town.

      For security, safety and the enviornment, eliminate cars from Chicago Ave through Benson, Elgin to Lake.

      If a shopper has an item too heavy/large to walk it to a car outside the area, store owners can give them a sign with day/hour valid for, and placed where police/pedestrians can see it.

      For the elderly’handicap who must be let-off,  picked-up a similar method could be used.

      1. I like that idea. I’d leave

        I like that idea. I’d leave traffic on Chicago Ave, as that’s used for through traffic. It will hopefully encourge people to get to downtown by train, bus, walking, or bike.

        A start would be making downtown Evanston traffic free on Sundays.

    2. other attacks

      There have been jihadi car/truck attacks for years worldwide.  It takes an attack on ‘our people’ (ie leftists) for security to be reviewed.

      1. I.e leftistism

        I think I see where you’re coming from. For those who are on the leftist perspective,they see the need  to propagate to protect their leftist  values to stir up pandemonium to fuel their self A-secondary inferiority feeling relates to an adult’s experience of being unable to reach a subconscious, reassuring fictional final goal of subjective security and success to compensate for the inferiority feelings. The perceived distance from that reassuring goal would lead to a negative/depressed feeling that could then prompt the recall of the original inferiority feeling; this composite of inferiority feelings could be experienced as overwhelming.Trump is not your springboard too reinstate a culture of financial  reacquaintion of Lost wealth.  All migrants, ever displace , misplaced or replaced with new imgramts make America the expectation. We are an explame of democratic. Land of ALL free and home to the brave, who continue to fight for justice in an injustice culture.

  2. Safety Theater

    A great deal of safety or vulnerability is going to be perception and subjetive feelings. Just as Evanston probably doesn’t have to worry about attacks of this variety, it does not mean people will not be afraid. Curbs might not have helped if someone had tried to harm someone with a vehicle, but they might make people feel safer. Curbs might just as much act as a deterant to an attacker as they might think they will not be as successful after hitting one. Curbs might make a parent less concerned about one of their children missing the “bollards, parking meters, planters and pavement material changes” at all times to tell which ‘zone’ they are in. Kids are not going to read these cues the same way.

    And further regarding bollards, Biggs comment: “And while it could be done, you’d have to do the entire downtown, or the driver would just go one block over to do their damage,” does little to sooth, as a block over isn’t the Fountain Square, where larger gatherings will actually be happening. As Biggs states, the Square will be “a more pedestrian-friendly environment for special events, gatherings and everyday use.” A block over where there are still curbs isn’t as attractive to people to either gather or to do harm.

    But all this logic or subjectivity aside my thoughts turn to safety in terms of accidents more than deliberate actions. At night or in the rain, how will this all look and work? Where/how will they plow the snow?

    We will have to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be as amazing as the renderings promise. Seeing as how it is a project of such scale with some large strides already made towards completion, it is what the Fountain Square is going to be for some time to come.

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