Is terrorism just something we have to get used to? Is it a part of modern life? Or is it possible to reduce the number of attacks taking place (if not eliminate them completely), and minimise the damage and disruption they can cause? When cities and public spaces are being planned, for example, is it possible to incorporate resilience to terrorism into their architecture and design?

Nobody wants to live in “fortress” cities covered in concrete bollards, barbed-wire, CCTV cameras, and patrols of uniformed soldiers with automatic rifles. Perhaps, however, there are more subtle ways to make our cities safer. It may not be possible to ever make a city 100% “terror-proof”, but can we at least improve on what we have today?

Curious to know more about how to make our cities more resilient to terrorism? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

On 22 February 2018, our partner think tank, Friends of Europe, is holding an event in Brussels looking at boosting urban resilience to violent extremism. A panel of experts will be looking at how to minimise the risks of lethal terrorist attacks and to ensure a quicker bounce-back when attacks do occur.

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Victor, who is worried about terrorist bombings and car attacks in European cities. The recent spate of truck and car attacks, in particular, seems to be a worrying new trend. How can cities defend themselves against attacks made with readily-available, improvised weapons such as vehicles or kitchen knives?

To get a reaction, we spoke to Carola García-Calvo, Senior Analyst of the Programme on Global Terrorism at the Elcano Royal Institute. What would she say?

This is very difficult to accomplish and we need to have in mind the balance between security and freedom. Of course, terrorism is always changing and we have to adapt our cities to new forms of terrorism, but we should admit that it’s impossible to cover all the possibilities in terms of terrorist attacks. What we can do is to take some measures and protect critical infrastructure, the most-critical and popular buildings and public spaces, and also to be creative and adapt to new trends and changes. But, at the same time, we have to assume that it’s impossible to cover all the possibilities and have 100% security. Still, it’s true that measures such as bollards on popular streets are needed.

For another reaction, we put the same comment to Jon Coaffee, Professor in Urban Geography at the University of Warwick. How would he respond?

Since the events of 9/11, 2001, the threat of urban terrorism has necessitated that the managers of public spaces consider installing or retrofitting protective security features in order to mitigate the impact of terror attack against ‘soft targets’ that are easily accessible. Limiting the occurrence and impact of vehicle attacks against such locations has primarily been accomplished by putting in place measures that reduce vehicular access to public spaces as well as seek to maximise the ‘standoff’ distance between the road and ‘target’ locations. Most-common amongst such interventions have been ‘barrier’ methods of protective security, notably crash-rated security barriers, steel bollards or simple temporary concrete or wooden blocks. In some instances urban designers and security experts have utilised specialised street furniture for protection.

We also spoke to Chris Phillips, former senior police officer, Head of the UK government’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office, and founder and Managing Director of the International Protect and Prepare Security Office (IPPSO) consultancy.

[…] There’s no way to have 100% security, but what you can do, and what we’ve done in the UK in many locations, is to choose your iconic, most-likely-to-be-targeted sites, and do work around those. There’s been a great deal of work already done; if you go to train stations and other iconic sites, it’s very difficult to get a vehicle into those sites.

Of course, you could also see a reduction in the number of vehicles allowed into and around iconic sites across Europe. That would be a good thing, but it’s not always going to be achievable, obviously… Still, there are many firms out there that are building what we call PAS-rated security bollards and barriers, and lots of other equipment which actually prevent vehicles from being able to crash into crowds.

Now, that sounds quite scary because we don’t our cities covered in bollards and barriers. But, actually, these days it’s much more nuanced than that. They’re made into bus stops, seating areas, cycle racks, and so on. For instance, in the main tube stations in London, the central stair-rail is actually vehicle-proof, so if you crash into it the vehicle won’t be able to get into the tube station. So, there’s lots that we can do and that has been done behind the scenes to make our cities more difficult to attack. But we will never have 100% security, that’s for sure.

We had a comment from Rosy, who points out that terrorists have been deliberately targeting tourists and cultural places in major cities across Europe. Is it possible to keep European cities safe and still preserve the cultural look and feel of historic public places?

[…] We should try to maintain the equilibrium between safety and our cultural heritage and our way of life. Mainly because the ultimate aim of the terrorists is to disrupt our way of life, our democratic freedom, and our inclusivity. We should be very creative when protecting our public spaces, while also trying to maintain our normality, our peaceful way of life, with our traditions and our normal co-existence inside the cities. Finally, we should also try to build a more psychological concept of resilience to threats, preserving our freedoms and our democracies.

Finally, what would Jon Coaffee say to Rosy’s comment?

Whilst ongoing urban revitalisation and cultural renaissance [projects] have increasingly emphasised inclusivity, livability and accessibility, the public reaction to the imposition of concrete blockers or bollards has recently stimulated debate about the need for such features in public places and the importance of the aesthetic quality of the public realm (debates which have been especially prominent in Italy and Australia). In some locations we can, however, see security features that are increasingly camouflaged and subtlety embedded within the cityscape, although in many cases barrier and bollard-type solutions still prevail as a default response. Examples of such ‘stealthy’ features include balustrades or artwork erected as part of public realm improvements, or hardened street furniture that still provide ‘hostile vehicle mitigation’ functionality.

How can we make our cities terror-proof? Can we make our cities more resilient to violent extremism without sacrificing their historic look and feel? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStockPhoto – (c) AlexRotenberg

67 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Matej

    Take away more civil rights and privacy, obviously. Look how effective that has been. And let’s just keep on fighting wars we have no right to meddle in.

    • Albert Golden

      That’s right. It’s important to solve domestic immigration issues instead of meddling in global affairs. For example, looking at Germany Immigration issue, the country took in too many invetted immigrants and now paying the price in increased number of terror attacks.

  2. José

    No finance to terrorist especially to overthrow politicians and governments

  3. Stef

    Homogeneous culture and assimilated LEGAL immigrants.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      “Homogeneous culture” is the exact opposite of the singular EU mantra “United in diversity”

    • Stadex

      We must differentiate between citizens and non citizens. Non citizens cam be prevented from entering, they can also be deported. Citizens have more or less absolute righta to enter and reside here with very few exceptions.
      We need a investigation of islamic terrorism and all it’s aspects. Who are it’s ideologues, preachers etc. We need a ban list of tgese individuals so they cannot come here to spread hatred. Telecoms, youtube etc. should be obligated to remove content where these people preach their hatred. Books and other mediums spreading islamic extremist ideology need identified and banned and actiin taken against those who produce such mediums (ban list, fines, prison etc.). European Countries should arrange to lean hard on islamic countries to fight the preaching of hatred on their soil. The ideological foundation for islamic terror must be fought at every turn wherever and whenever it rears it’s ugly head. This is a war for civilization. This war will be for over 1 generation. We will only defeat islamic terror if we push for a reformatiin of islam.

    • Karolina

      I think diversity within the EU is homogeneous when compared to imported ideas and cultural norms… The EU campaigns for the diversity of its members to be maintained, i.e. European traditions, and values and not imported values and traditions that go straight against those of Europe.

      I thought that it was obvious.

  4. Christine

    Stop invading other countries , stop supporting war, stop stealing resources

  5. Vytautas

    Invite more undocumented immigrants from hot regions to enrich our society…

  6. Dave

    As the london mayor once said attacks are part and parcel of living in a big city well it’s the normal people that suffer not people like him.

  7. Aris

    There is no way to stop “lone wolves” who are ready to die.
    The secret agencies must enter the European Mosques and Islamic Centers and watch what the Imams are telling to the followers.
    Also, we need a common European patrol guard to watch the external borders of the Union, we need closer cooperation and exchange of information. A info can save lifes.

  8. Ivan

    Get rid of the Schengen fiasco, put up real and meaningful borders and stop taking in terrorists. In fact do exactly the opposite of what the Brussels dictatorship ‘orders’ you to do :)

    • Mauricio

      What horses**t! The UK isn’t part of the Schengen area and they have been the worst hit. How about you take lessons in law enforcement from those who are actually NOT incompetent?

    • Ivan

      @Mauricio Indeed we have, because of the idiotic free movement policy that allowed the illegal migrants that should have been stopped at the Greek, Spanish, French, etc border to go where they wanted when they wanted. We are leaving your pointless EU so they are ‘all’ your problem now comrade, have fun :)

    • Stadex

      Hey hey calm down. The issue is not and never was citizens of European countries moving freely. The issue is foreigners using that same right. And especially illegal foreigners from the middle east.

    • Ivan

      I take it you have asked the same of Canada, south Africa, Russia, China, North Korea, etc ?

    • Ingrid

      I was sort of hoping this would not end up being a kindergarden playground blame throwing match, but a discussion on why terrorism appears and survives in this oh! so! civilised 21st century! But hey… maybe we do indeed have the leaders we deserve….

  9. Péter

    Freedom of religion must be maintained, but careful inspection of each and every church is mandatory. Scientology, islamism, etc. play a blackhat game against freedom, christianism cover for many pedophiliac abuse, etc. we must know what is going on in the respective churches. As for the people themselves, millions of outlanders must be bought out of their European citizenship, and deny any permission to settle. We must also finance huge reconstruction programs in the war-stricken countries. Also we must force the third world to stop producing children at will, because a huge chunck of their poverty comes from their extraordinary reproduction rate.

  10. Mario

    mhhhh, letting in only atheist apparently. which is impossible.

  11. Tarquin Farquhar

    Cities can never be “Terror-Proof”!

    They can however, be “Terror-Resistant”!

    • Joaquín

      Finally!!!! Reading nonsenses while I was expecting the right answer.

  12. Karolina

    I took the exact same photo a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t believe the need for barricades… How did the enemy manage to get inside?

    This is a social problem more than anything else.

    • Ivan

      Your values or our values ? Given the antidemocratic addition to your picture clearly they are not the same thing.

  13. catherine benning

    How can we make our cities terror-proof?

    Cities are terror proof when politics are terror proof.

    Politicians in the West decided to back the Globalists and lie in order to take weapons, paid for by public funds, and drop them on towns of people who had nothing to do with our side of the world. They did this after decades before deciding to open our borders up to hoards of immigrant wanderers looking for a feed and a leg up.

    Now they were in the lands of the political Western bombers, and felt they could not be removed from their place of residence, decided to do what was being done in their homeland, mass killing by terror.

    If there was the political will to stop this imported slaughter, this barrier of so called protection would be removed overnight. This war we have going on within our society is clearly suiting the leaders. Obviously it is used as a threat to the tax paying citizen in order to persuade them their money must go on being used to protect them from attack. Arms are a good investment, they do not want to let that go or be rid of the profit they glean from it.

    The cost of these barriers are another way of making profit, just as traffic lights, armed police, GCHQ and so on, are. Military is a big part of the economy and those who lead are in it up to their necks.

    When WWII raged through our streets in London, did we let the German and Japanese people roam the city in order to place their weapons ready to wipe us all out? No. Well I wonder why they allow it now? Has to be the hand outs they receive for laying down and claiming there is nothing they can do. This in the land of Napoleon, Nelson, Churchill, and the rest. Are you kidding me?

    Soon we in the UK will be free of the EU and once again, our politicians will have to dance to the tune of the nation or be out on their backsides.

    • Karolina

      Guess what Catherine? The “terrorists” are also anti-globalism… And so you see that the problem is not that straightforward… Barricades are treating the symptom and not the disease. Why have we allowed people who are against us to live amongst us regardless of where they were born and what citizenship they have? If we really believed in democracy and were prepared to implement it fully, do you think things would have got so bad? I don’t think so. Anti-democratic speech and attitudes should have been stopped way back then before they cost anyone their life. Tolerance is not the same as passivity towards those that are enemies of the state.

  14. Mauricio

    We can’t. Which is why giving law enforcement the means and training for prevention is crucial.

    • Jay

      that’s a terrible idea! Its a one-way trip to a 1984 hell. that not freedom and that is not the future for Europe that I want (and I think also many others). Mauricio, I think you need to educate yourself a little.

  15. Chris

    We can’t make them Terrorism proof but we can make them terrorism resistant.

  16. Wendy

    Get rid of the terrorists. Deport or intern everyone connected to ISIS.

  17. Carlos

    Europeans we need to stick togheter to stop bruxells dictature, the problem is not the “refugees” is the bruxells agenda that promote this in europe. bruxells does not represant europeans, the bruxells is entreprise that work against europeans.

  18. catherine benning

    How can we make our cities terror-proof?

    Only fools who do not bother to research and understand the full impact of Globalism sit playing with their tops welcoming the thought police into their mind. Are you one of those?

    Do you even understand what Globalism is? Had you done so, that post you used my name for would not exist.

    This may help.

    • Karolina

      Another conspiracy theory video from you Catherine in an attempt to support an irrelevant argument… Like I said before, I don’t bother with conspiracy theories. They are the new substitute for organised religion. Based on faith…

  19. randomguy2017

    Yes we can.

    1)Start mass deportations. Two generations back of Non-Europeans.
    2)Then stop supporting American, UK, French wars, let the Americans take those refugees and immigrations, if they love those wars so much.
    Shame on those UK French who allow Libya, Syria to be destroyed.
    Lately the Macaroni boy said he would bomb Syria if “chemicals are used”.

    The EU will change greatly, or it will fall. It will be beautiful.

  20. EU Reform- Proactive

    It costs Euros & inconvenience- who pays?

    Why – “WE the voters”- don’t consider & demand the following:

    Costly political errors are never paid by politicians who cause them! The “repair costs” are always taken from the taxpayer’s pocket- who (blindly) put their trust in their STATE, who’s duty is to look after their communal security interests- as a first priority. Who carries the greater responsibility- voters or politicians?

    As long as we allow to be led by concepts of untested origins, domineering countries, parties and their busy body bureaucrats- where a sentimental concoction of “tender emotions” and irrational actions can take over- nothing will change or be “terror proof”.

    An EU with such great love for treaties just needs another one- called:
    “The EU treaty on ACCOUNTABILITY”. Applicable to all its political office bearers- including a legally binding contract with its voters- not the EU Commission or its lobbyists.

    Within should be a sworn & signed “performance guarantee” and “surety”! It should measure “THEIR” success, failure, possible salary increases or reductions, penalties and/or summarily dismissals with the tragic loss of all generous benefits.

    There must be a strict performance criteria & deterrent- besides believing in a “drone like” unprecedented secured employment until early retirement & death.

  21. Ivan

    You can’t fully but not giving the faith that drives it a free pass & importing millions of its followers would be a good start.

  22. Gustav

    It’s funny how Isis and white nationalists agree on what islam is.

    But extremists can’t be allowed to define this. They want muslims to be a marginalised minority who feels threatened by the majority. Extremists have so much in common.

    It’s impossible to build terror-proof cities. That’s not how we must defeat this extremism. Democracy must have the courage to actively work against hate-speech, incitements to violence and actively promote the democratic ideas.

    Extremists won’t like that. But they shouldn’t set the rules.

    • Wendy

      Islam defines itself. The terrorists do exactly as Allah tells them. If the moderates disagree then they should fight to reform. This is the 21st century and they are not goatherds any more.

    • Gustav

      Moderates are reformed, and god doesn’t exist. It’s not moderates fault there are terrorists. Just like it isn’t my fault Anders Bering Breivik killed all those kids. I hate white nationalists.

  23. Stef

    Everyone knows it but for some reason politicians wont implement it.

  24. Chris

    Stop socioeconomic terror – open schools – reconnect people with nature.

  25. Lino

    stop funding banks and oil companies that help these groups exist

    • Ivan

      What have banks and oil companies got to do with a internal 1300 year of Islamic war that is being exported to the civilised world by leftest dogma ?

    • Lino

      because these groups have a source of funding. And that source is oil and military companies that fund war that just wants to make it easier to extend a oil duct from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, thus cutting on the time and cost of transportation.

    • Ivan

      Lino So how did they kill each other by the million before banks and oil companies and should we treat them like children and deny them any kind of modern day invention ? Yours is just the usual left wing argument of blaming the west for historical problems of the Middle East and not offering any real solution.

  26. Simon

    What about stopping to overthrow governments, which we admittedly don’t like, and try in other peaceful ways to stabilise the mid-east?!:O
    We have to admit that invading and quasi-destroying Iraq and Libya for years if not decades has brought terror back to us! All the while we allow that Syrian catastrophe to unfold, where there was actually popular suppor for a change of government …
    Our leaders need to engage more with unstable countries, and frankly bomb less!

  27. RicardoFilipeP

    I would put more effort on mitigating the attacks and less on preparing our cities for further ones.

    Most last attacks (or all) were perpetrated by European citizens, so we need to understand why the our citizens were radicalised and attacked their own people. Maybe they had the feeling of not belonging, or for some reason were angry at the system.

    We also need to be able to find the sources financing the terrorist groups and tackle those sources, so we’ll need some level of transparency on financial transactions. That is the way you bring those organisations down and prevent the money sources to finance new groups

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