Residents in one wealthy Bristol neighbourhood are catching heat after installing anti-bird spikes on trees to keep birds from defecating on their cars.
Anti-bird spikes are often installed to stop birds from nesting on buildings or statues, but one neighbourhood in Clifton, Bristol has nailed them to tree branches on their front lawns to prevent birds from roosting on them. After the defensive spikes became nationwide news, an anonymous resident confirmed that the spikes were meant “solely to protect cars.”
“There is a big problem with bird droppings around here,” they continued, and also said that they had previously tried other methods of scaring off the birds, including “a wooden bird of prey in the branches.” Hillcrest Estate Management, the block management company responsible for installing the spikes, added, “Bird detritus can cause permanent damage to the paintwork on cars if not removed promptly and the worst affected leaseholders wanted action taken to try and improve the situation.” But, Paula O’Rourke a city councillor for the Green Party who represents the area, has harshly criticized the move.
“I’m aware that the landowner might be legally within their rights to do this to the trees as they seem to be on private land,” she conceded, but added that it was a shame to see the trees made “literally uninhabitable to birds.” She concluded, “Sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of the benefit that we all gain from trees and green spaces and from the presence of wildlife around us in the city.” So far, 26,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Hillcrest to remove the spikes.
Anti-bird spikes are only one example of ‘hostile architecture’: an urban design trend where public spaces are deliberately altered to keep them from being used in a way that a community doesn’t want. Most hostile architecture is targeted at keeping homeless people from “loitering” in public places, like the “homeless spikes” installed on flat surfaces to keep people from sleeping on them.
Hostile architecture has taken a beating in the public eye lately. In January, a set of homeless spikes outside a building in Manchester was removed after a public protest against them. And a recent CNN debate between anti-hostile designer James Furzer and Dean Harvey, whose company makes benches designed to stop homeless people from sleeping on them, has gotten people talking about the issue again.
Whether it’s aimed at birds or people, hostile architecture is a touchy issue. As nature writer Patrick Barkham said in a piece for The Guardian, “Some spikes on a branch in Bristol are one small outrage, but they scream at us whatever we are doing to our world, we really should stop.”
— VICE (@VICE) June 12, 2014
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