The most recent of Europe’s vehicle-into-crowd attacks will alter the look of South Beach’s Lincoln Road — concrete barriers will soon frame the internationally known shopping and socializing promenade.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced in an email to residents Tuesday that “temporary concrete barriers will be placed along the curb line on the Alton Road and Washington Avenue entrances to the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. The barriers will be temporary, until a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing option can be implemented as part of the eventual redesign of Lincoln Road.”
Levine, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, released a second statement Tuesday afternoon calling on Gov. Rick Scott, who is term-limited next year, to assist cities in safeguarding high-traffic pedestrian walking areas, including funding for safety barriers, called bollards.
“The state could partially or fully fund the purchase and placement of bollards at key access points in these areas to prevent entry by vehicles,” Levine wrote in a letter to Scott. “In conjunction with the federal government, the state could help fund the development of security and assistance expertise for local police forces, so that they may be prepared in the event of an attack.”
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Levine may have added urgency to the issue with his statements Tuesday, but the conversation about barriers is not new in Miami Beach. In January, Commissioner Michael Grieco raised the issue at a commission meeting and requested that the city consider safety bollards as part of the redesign of Lincoln Road.
“I proposed safety bollards and identified both Lincoln Road and Española Way as soft targets for vehicular attacks in last January’s commission meeting, so I hope we can get something in place now before something tragic happens,” he told the Miami Herald on Tuesday.
City spokeswoman Melissa Berthier said the city is placing temporary barriers only at each end of the pedestrian mall for now, but not on cross streets that cut through Lincoln Road.
“At this moment, there will be no barriers between the cross streets,” she said. “As we explore permanent barricade installations, this will be considered.”
Levine said last week’s Barcelona attack by a van, which killed 13 people and injured more than 100 by barreling down a walkway, prompted a reexamination of how vulnerable Miami Beach’s pedestrian-heavy areas would be to such an attack.
Three such attacks struck London this year. Four people died in March when an SUV rumbled into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. Four men launched a stabbing assault in June by driving onto London Bridge’s sidewalk. Later in June, a man drove into people leaving a mosque.
Beach police are “on appropriate alert because of the events in Europe,” said Police Chief Dan Oates.
“We are evaluating our existing security measures for all our high-volume pedestrian areas,” Oates said. “Plans have been in the works to permanently upgrade physical security on Lincoln Road and Española Way. We are considering interim, temporary measures as well.”
Steve Gombinski, president of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District, said in a statement that the organization supports the barriers.
“We commend the mayor for being proactive to insure the safety of the numerous tourists and residents who enjoy Lincoln Road and will continue to work with the city in these efforts,” he said.
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales is using emergency powers to quickly negotiate a contract for the barriers. Morales can negotiate contracts worth up to $50,000 without commission approval.