Monday, December 11, 2017

Merklestein Monday: Toronto's Christmas Market is "Safer Than Last Year"

Canada, our fine neighbor to the north, has Christmas markets modeled on those in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. This year, they have an added measure of Euro-authenticity in their vehicle barriers and heightened police presence.

For example, the market in Toronto's Distillery District is keeping it real, Euro style, with concrete barriers and police: the new norm at Distillery Christmas market:
The Distillery District Christmas Market opened Thursday and visitors will notice more than just a European feel to this popular holiday destination.

Security measures have been tweaked in the wake of recent attacks where vehicles have been used as weapons and driven through pedestrian areas.

Dozens of people have been killed in recent years in terrorist attacks where the assailants drove vehicles into crowds. [TSB note: Not dozens, bu hundreds of people have been killed in vehicle ramming attacks in recent years.] In the most recent attack, eight people were killed on a New York City bike path.

The market’s creator says the extra precautions won’t impact the user experience.

“The safety installations that we’ve put in place are really not that visible,” said Matthew Rosenblatt. “So, we hope that they certainly do act as a deterrent, but they’re not going to take away any of the market’s magic.”

Rosenblatt wouldn’t go into too many details but added that the concrete barricades at the entrances should prevent or at least slow down any vehicle.

“We think it’s a safe place. Toronto and Canada is one of the safest places in the world. We’ve done what we think is appropriate to protect the people here,” said Rosenblatt. Toronto police would only say they have met with market officials and developed a site safety plan.

Mr. Rosenblatt is correct in his assumption that those simple concrete barriers - mere highway dividers, really - should slow down a vehicle, and probably do nothing more. Real tested and certified anti-ram bollards would actually stop a threat vehicle, not merely slow it down.

Why use an ineffective countermeasure when fully effective ones are available, and could even be blended into the market streetscape? I know the RCMP has a national center of excellence for physical security and those good people could have given Toronto's market organizers and city planners some professional advice. Are we serious about protection against vehicle attacks, or just putting on a show for public consumption? 

Toronto's Christmas market last year (above), right after the Berlin market truck attack. They hauled a couple old and shopworn Jersey barriers across the main pedestrian entrance to the shopping street.

This year (above), the markets at least sprung for new Jerseys, but placed them in the same weak surface-mounted configuration. They didn't even stagger the barriers to make a zig-zag chicane approach, much less try to lower their visual impact.

Pedestrian controls are evident, along with a police presence. All well and good, but then, nothing stops a ramming vehicle except a physical barrier that will absorb the requisite amount of kinetic energy.

It all makes me wonder whether the responsible parties just want to seem to be protecting the crowds rather than to really protect them. Judging from the comments by market visitors, the public appears to be happy with merely the appearance of security.

“I guess it does give you more sense of security that there are people kind of looking out for you“ ... “the visibility makes you feel a bit better”

In any case, perimeter barriers at large venue public events are now the new normal in the Great White North, as they are in Europe.

And so, in conclusion, I recommend trying the poutine if you are ever in Canada. See this New Yorker article for lots of background on the "surprisingly inoffensive" Canadian dish of french fries, cheese curd, and gravy.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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James said...

I think the Jersey barriers would work even surface mounted if they put in two parallel lines of them. As they are designed to throw a vehicle upwards, the first one would do that and the vehicle would hang on the second, even large trucks.

TSB said...

Crash test results are uniformly negative. Jersey barriers are surprisingly ineffective against perpendicular hits, even low-speed ones, even when in double rows and even if cabled together. Their shape will deflect vehicles in lateral hits (for highway-safety) but that doesn't transfer to ramming attacks.

The best anti-ram use you can make of them is to create a sand bin maybe four-plus feet wide. But, they're cheap and universally available, so they get used a lot.

Recent tests of Euro-type (rectangular) highway barriers paid for by German news media: