Although 22 people were injured and one person was killed in Thursday's Times Square crash, if it wasn't for a safety measure installed last year things could have been a lot worse.
Bollards, those short steel barriers frequently found outside stadiums, shopping malls, government buildings and other populated areas, are designed to prevent vehicle attacks, whether accidental or deliberate.
The ones located in Times Square are specially designed versions created in partnership between the city's Times Square Alliance group that manages the popular tourist spot and Southern California-based Calpipe Security Bollards. They were installed between August and October of last year. Thursday proved their value, slowing down and then stopping a car going the wrong way up a one-way street that slammed into dozens of pedestrians.
"The bollards worked as intended ... and to me, that's a success story," said Rob Reiter, a consultant with Calpipe Security Bollards.
Reiter said the project was in development for more than two years. While bollards are common at many public venues — Calpipe provides bollards at several stadiums including Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., AT&T Park in San Francisco and the Atlanta Braves' new SunTrust Park, — the Times Square bollards provided a unique challenge.
"In this particular instance, because in the streets of New York you have the subway less than 2 feet underneath the pavement, these were specially designed because they needed to have a shallow foundation ... strong enough to withstand a 30 mph impact," Reiter said. "At the end of the day, the city of New York wanted to protect hundreds of thousands of pedestrians a day who are in Times Square, and the bollards did in fact disable the vehicle."
While the bollards may at times annoy pedestrians, people took to Twitter after Thursday's incident to praise the barriers.
Those annoying barriers in Times Square finally did a job.— Mike Cane (@mikecane) May 18, 2017
Prayers to victims and thanks to the civil engineers and city planners who design and redesign Times Square. The barriers held. Good work.— Kara E (@karathebird) May 18, 2017
Installed in a pattern known as a "redundant defense" to slow down and disable vehicles, the devices can cost anywhere from $600 each to up $5,000 for an anti-terror model. Calpipe would not comment on the exact price of the Times Square bollards but did confirm that they were similar to the anti-terror models.
"It is very important to have barriers to keep vehicles, either with evil intent or just a disabled driver, from driving into crowds because (then) the body counts get huge," said Reiter, citing attacks in Nice, France, and Berlin last year and February's drunk driver crash at a Mardi Gras parade in Louisiana as examples of what can happen when bollards or other barriers aren't in place to protect crowds.
"What today proved was the city of New York had the foresight to protect against either terrorists or accidents just like this one," Reiter said.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter: @eliblumenthal