Almost 80 vehicles have been sprung by controversial bollards designed to prevent a terror attack, KentOnline can reveal.
The pop-up posts in Canterbury, which provide a ring of protection around the city centre, allow access only to certain motorists, including residents and traders.
Their installation in November 2020 – on the advice of anti-terror police and at a cost of £789,000 – proved contentious, with many questioning the need for such measures.
But a separate continually issue has arisen, with vehicles being impaled on the automated bollards, which are controlled via an intercom and camera system.
In the 16 months they have been operational there have been 79 such incidents – including at least one involving a police car – with the majority caused by tailgating drivers.
Nigel Martin, 68, a shop manager in Burgate, blames the stupidity of motorists ignoring obvious signs.
“It says no tailgating and only one at a time, so obviously what’s happening is one is trying to get through behind the other,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how much signage you put up, it’s whether people read it properly or understand it. We have a lot of foreign visitors who may not speak or read English.”
Vicky McWilliam, 55, lives in The Friars, near bollards installed close to the Marlowe Theatre.
She describes them as “ugly, pointless and illogical”.
“They’re a terrible eyesore and it’s loud when the bollards are going up and down, and you’re trying to work from home, which many of us are trying to do now,” she said.
“It’s very loud when a car gets stuck on them and the repair people have to come and sort that out.
“At least twice in the past two months there have been fuel leakages [from impaled cars]and that is dangerous.
“The sheer amount of money that has been spent on them could have been spent better elsewhere, which really galls me, especially in these difficult times post-Covid.
“I think it’s shocking.”
The bollards were installed at 20 locations across the city center to prevent attacks by ‘hostile vehicles’.
Only certain groups – including residents, traders and emergency services workers –have 24-hour access to the city centre.
Others, such as delivery drivers and postal workers, can only go through the bollards between 4pm and 10.30am.
City center businesses have previously expressed their irritation with the system, and now say regular incidents on the bollards are exacerbating delays.
Paige Bower, 20, the manager of The Record Store in Sun Street, describes them as “very frustrating”.
“You’ll be sitting waiting for a delivery, which doesn’t show up because of the bollards,” she said.
“The fact they are impaling cars this often – clearly there is something wrong, so something has to be changed.”
Mr Martin says the bollards make it difficult for him to keep his shop stocked up.
“I don’t like the idea of them and I don’t think they will stop anything,” he added.
“It was a good idea in somebody’s head but they didn’t think it through.
“The town is already congested enough without people queuing up the road to get through the bollards.”
However, Suzanne Crawley, 43, who works at shoe store The Elves and the Shoemaker in Burgate, supports the bollards being in place.
“If they’re protecting everyone in the high street from threats, why wouldn’t you have them? It’s not like they’re not signposted,” she said.
City center councillor Pip Hazelton says she has been “worried for some time” about the number of incidents on the bollards.
“I don’t know how much this is costing the council in oversight and management, but I do know that it does nothing for the council’s reputation when time and time again, we see and hear reports of yet another incident,” she said.
“There seem currently to be more questions than answers.
“Installed to keep our citizens and visitors safe, they currently seem to be more effective at making us a laughing stock.”
Canterbury City Council describes the number of incidents as “miniscule” given how many vehicles pass through the bollards each day.
A spokesman added: “Three quarters of these have been tailgating incidents caused by driver error.
“The remainder relate to vehicles attempting to pass over the bollards when they are in the process of lowering, but are not fully lowered – again a result of a mistake by the motorist.
“People may raise an eyebrow or two at this figure, but we are very clear that the bollards are working exactly as they should be.
“They are successfully controlling which vehicles can come into the city centre, helping to keep everyone safe by preventing terror attacks and enforcing the pedestrian zone rules that have been in place for almost 40 years.
“There are multiple signs up at each bollard site, along with red stop lights, telling drivers not to tailgate. You really cannot miss them.
“But we are always happy to take every opportunity to reinforce this message: only drive forward when there is a green light.
“There is absolutely no point in taking a risk and trying to get through straight after someone else. You will come unstuck.
“All of this said, however, we do keep the situation under constant review and are looking at new road markings at tailgating incident hotspots to further reinforce the already very clear messaging.”