Evaluating Bollards for Safety, Security and Design Value
Not Just a Pretty Face – Bollards Direct, Protect and Define While Adding Aesthetic Value to Landscapes and Streetscapes
Written by: Brad Done
Originally printed in FM Link - April 2011
While bollards serve as an attractive architectural and landscaping element, they are also quite useful for a number of different purposes;
- to provide design aesthetics to guide traffic and pedestrians
- to control vehicle access to properties via driveways, streets or roads
- to protect businesses from a rising tide of smash and grab burglaries or from vehicle attack
- to channel pedestrians and protect them from adjacent traffic
- to delineate use areas or boundaries
There is little question that bollards offer excellent design value with a wide variety of style, color and material choices, but they also offer a myriad of functional choices as well. A quick look at some of the most common needs and alternatives will help to prove that bollards are not just a pretty face.
Guiding and Protecting Vehicles and Pedestrians
- To guide traffic on a property site or campus, signage is of course helpful, but it's easy to miss a sign or fail to see an upcoming curve if both the driver and passengers are busy scanning the site for the entrance or parking area they need. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation set out to better mark road curves after determining that more than one in four highway deaths resulted from an accident on a curve. Studies indicated that the best prevention is to mark curves with reflective posts or signs so drivers can negotiate curves at safe speeds. Bollards fill these functions – providing a continuing visual aid with effective front and side visibility, offering good contrast from the background, and by providing enough color choices in order to stand out.
- Pedestrians and bicyclists often stray into vehicle lanes accidentally on commercial and public sites. Bollards help them be alert to adjacent traffic lanes. Using attractive chains between bollards can direct pedestrians and bike riders to designated and marked crossings, which helps alleviate congestion and decrease the danger that they will simply set out across traffic lanes.
- Today, sections of what were formerly streets are often blocked off with bollards to create large pedestrian and visitor areas with attractive landscaping, seating and sidewalk vendors.
- Bollards are utilized to close off long, straight driving paths toward doors that might allow either ram-raid burglaries, or terrorist attacks in which a vehicle loaded with explosives is driven toward or into a building.
While an eight- to twelve-foot chain link fence can visually perform most traffic and pedestrian direction functions, it is innately unattractive, whereas bollards and decorative bollard covers are aesthetically pleasing. Wrought iron fencing is more attractive, but seldom comes in heights more than five to six feet, is much more expensive than chain link fence, and provides minimal vehicle impact resistance. Fencing also offers little protection from accidental vehicle incursion because it yields to vehicle incursion quite easily. Long fenced areas look more like a bunker than an invitation to a site, and long walks to gated access areas can aggravate pedestrians and visitors.
Parking Bollards - Vehicles and Bicycles
Restricting Vehicle Access
- Where parking immediately abuts walkways or playing fields, bollards preserve an open look and do a better job of stopping a vehicle that accidentally strays over an edge than either a fence or typical low cement parking slot edgers.
- New flexible bollards are available to deter vehicles, while preventing significant damage to bollards or their concrete foundations upon impact; vehicles can also benefit from significantly reduced damage.
- Bollards with arms provide parking for two bicycles, and draw many more bike riders who will not leave their bikes unless they can park them securely. Bike Bollards can also define sidewalk edges and protect pedestrians, property and plantings.
Protecting businesses from ram-raid burglaries and terrorist attacks
- Removable bollards are intended for applications where frequent or quick manual removal of a bollard may be necessary to provide or prohibit vehicle access (i.e. emergency vehicles).
- Retractable bollards can be used to securely block entries until a vehicle is screened; they provide much more security than a wooden or steel barrier gate. For these entrances, automatic retractable bollards using hydraulic or pneumatic power are generally preferable. For entrances used only occasionally, manually retractable or removable bollards are a cost-effective choice.
In October, 2010, thefts of ATMs from convenience stores became so frequent that Time magazine devoted an entire article to ATM theft, noting a dramatic rise in ATM thefts across the United States. For example, San Diego saw ATM thefts and attempted thefts rise from only two in 2009 to 28 in the first eight months of 2010. Another version of ram-raid burglaries, called smash-and-grabs, involve burglars driving trucks through store entrances, grabbing merchandise, and leaving in just minutes
– often before police can arrive. Alarm systems often don't deter smash-and-grab burglars, because police response time is built into their plan.
Both of these kinds of burglaries cause extensive property damage. For example, Time describes an ATM heist: "In most instances, thieves will back a stolen pick-up truck to a store's front door, before smashing the windows. Robbers then loop a chain attached to the truck around the target ATM. The truck yanks the machine, along with the front doors and anything else in the way, into the parking lot. The robbers lift the machine onto their flatbed and drive, quickly, off."
Security bollards provide simple but effective protection arrayed outside entrances and often the whole front or perimeter of a building, and are the most effective protection against ram-raiding of any sort. There is no alternative which effectively protects a building that doesn't make it look and feel like a bunker. Security bollards, normally steel with a concrete center or reinforced galvanized steel, however, are unattractive and uninviting. The bollard industry offers a wide selection of period and contemporary bollard covers in steel, stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum and plastic to restore an inviting entrance for customers.
In the long term the best way to protect a building against any kind of “attack” is to design entrances and roadways so trucks can't build up to speeds of 30 to 50 miles per hour. However, that may not be possible because a building doesn't sit on enough land to safely build curves into driveways and roads, and cities can't route streets with appropriate curves except in areas being newly constructed. The extra land and expense to build more road feet are often prohibitive as well. Developed to protect embassies, utilities and other facilities judged to be at significant risk of attacks, high security bollards can stop even very large trucks at high speeds. Rated high security bollards must meet rigid testing standards developed by the U.S. Department of State.
Architectural Accents and Definition
Bollards are an effective and affordable design element for streetscapes and landscapes. For historic buildings or districts, bollards are the only barriers that can be matched to virtually any historic period or design.
Sleek modern bollards are a design statement, too. Adding lighted bollards along walkways increases safety from falls and crime.
In park settings, bollard borders are attractive and require less maintenance than other choices such as rail fences.
For a more comprehensive overview of bollards, including designs, functions and materials, please visit Bollards: Providing Security, Safety, and Design Value
About Reliance Foundry Co. Ltd.
Reliance Foundry has been a family-owned business since 1927. Bollards are one of its main product lines, along with bike racks, industrial wheels and investment castings. Reliance sources products globally and offers quick and convenient delivery in the United States and Canada from its Vancouver location.