Driver awareness is a huge factor in preventing vehicle collisions. When it comes to encouraging safe habits among drivers, clear visual expectations reinforce good behavior. In this post, we'll look at how street bollards heighten visual awareness in sensitive road environments.
When bollards get hit
Most bollards fall into one of two categories: impact-resistant and non-impact resistant bollards. Impact resistant bollards are ideal for protecting buildings, pedestrians and other sensitive areas. Non-impact resistant bollards provide visual indicators for drivers and pedestrians—alerting attention to sensitive areas while encouraging more careful driving habits.
When planning for the long term, keep in mind that most bollards, even impact-resistant ones, typically need to be replaced in the event of a crash. This is to ensure the structural integrity of a barrier and its surrounding surfaces. Below, we'll look at some ways around this. But first, a look at how street bollards improve visual acuity.
Distracted driving is a major issue in North America, accounting for 3,300 deaths and 421,000 injuries in 2012 alone—occurring in both city streets and parking lots. We look at the issue in more detail in this post about improving site safety.
When it comes to vehicle collisions and safety, avoidance is key. Often, clear visual markers are enough to direct safe and appropriate driver behavior. Most people are willing to follow the rules, but getting their attention can be a challenge.
A simple sign that reads "Do Not Enter" or "Authorized Vehicles Only" may be enough to deter drivers from entering a fire lane or service entrance. Signs can be missed, however, and a clearer, more physical cue can be more effective. When it comes to ensuring the safest driver behaviors, street bollards offer proximate visual signals—which can also reinforce other traffic management strategies.
Street bollards heighten driver awareness
Street bollards stand at a height that ensures visibility for drivers while making sure they don't obstruct sightlines. When installed along road boundaries, they force drivers to better consider their vehicle proportions within their environment. Many drivers feel constrained when driving alongside or between bollards, which makes them more cautious.
When bollards are installed in a series, along a straight road or around a bend, they create the illusion of speed—or more specifically, they draw attention to themselves as they zip in and out of your field of vision—which also encourages drivers to slow down.
The color and size of a bollard affects how visible they are for drivers. Bollards with reflective surfaces, or reflective bollards, may be ideal for low-light or night conditions. Illuminated bollards are also common around buildings and in parking areas—especially along pedestrian walkways.
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Bollards for traffic calming
Street bollards can be used on their own to manage road behavior, but they're often used as part of a traffic calming strategy. Traffic calming is a broader design approach used to encourage safer, more responsible driving. Implementing traffic calming in busy areas—especially in areas with mixed modes of transportation and/or high numbers of pedestrians—can improve safety and reduce risk of accident. It typically uses a mix of two approaches.
- Physical modifications. These include reducing street/lane widths; installing roundabouts, traffic circles, medians and boulevards; diverting traffic flow; and installing vertical deflections and other surface treatments.
- Visual cues. These include signage and other design elements such as traffic stripes.
Street bollards are ideal for road narrowings and other road modifications. They guide drivers by helping them avoid collisions with their surrounding environment—or nearby vehicles and pedestrians. Temporary traffic cones and freestanding stanchions are often used to delineate lanes temporarily, but they aren't nearly as robust. Where traffic cones and stanchions are easily knocked over or deformed, fixed bollards—ones that are designed to withstand repeated impacts—are ideal for maintaining visual barriers for the long term.
We've looked at a range of issues to consider when planning both physical and visual perimeters around a building or property. Here, we're going to look at how flexible traffic bollards can be an ideal solution for non-impact barriers.
Flexible bollards are rigid enough to resist deformation
Flexible bollards are designed to withstand repeated vehicle impacts without losing their shape or form. Reliance Foundry flexible bollards, made from a proprietary plastic composite, have been tested to withstand up to 50 collisions, bending a full 90 degrees to the ground—and up to 500 partial impacts, flexing to 45 degrees. They are molded with fully permeated dyes, so their color won't chip or flake away.
Flexible plastic bollards are ideal for high-traffic areas where collisions may be frequent or expected. They help guide traffic along intended routes by ensuring optimal visibility. Flexible bollards are also ideal for lane delineations, especially around lane narrowings or in cramped parking lots and other enclosed traffic spaces—such as loading areas or commercial access routes—where there is less risk of a heavy collision and low stakes for damage.
Lane delineators are becoming more common in sensitive traffic areas—such as underground tunnels, highway onramps and surrounding bike lanes. Due to the limitations of space and high traffic volume, it's common for ordinary plastic bollards to get bent or flattened from regular vehicle impacts. Providing a more robust barrier will ensure a much longer performance life and reduced maintenance.
Because flexible bollards do not provide physical protection, they should be installed with greater proximity from protected areas. They should be used to alert drivers of sensitive locations, rather than provide an actual barrier themselves.
Cost and safety considerations
Flexible bollards offer savings for both short and long-term considerations. For the short term, they can be much cheaper and easier to install than most physical vehicle barriers. For the long term, they help avoid potential repair and replacement costs in the event of a collision. They'll also continue looking their best with as little attention as possible.
Street bollards are ideal for enclosed areas
Street bollards, due to their proximity within traffic-oriented locations, are highly susceptible to chips, scratches, dents or cracks. Vehicle collisions are a threat, but so are bits of roadside debris. Depending on the material, even minor surface damage can be detrimental to a bollard's visual qualities. For metal bollards, damaged surfaces can also invite rust and corrosion.
It's necessary to look at local traffic patterns—including the regularity, speed and type of nearby vehicles—as well as the nature and proximity of protected areas. Drivers, for example, behave much differently in parking lots than they do in busy, high-volume streets. A decorative building facade, or community art piece, likely requires more reliable protection.
Design for use
When designing vehicle barriers—whether physical or visual—consider these key factors.
- Physical requirements: Is physical protection a requirement for your building or property? If so, what types of threats are anticipated given the location and surrounding approach environment?
- Aesthetic considerations: When looking at a property and the surrounding environment, what visual expectations are there? High-end, architectural buildings deserve furnishings that do justice to their planning and design. Industrial areas likely don't have the same expectations. Expectations for commercial and residential environments will depend on the neighborhood or community.
- Risk of impact or physical contact: There are a range of factors that affect the likelihood of vehicle intrusions—including traffic volumes, driver behaviors, vehicle speeds and proximity. If regular impacts are expected, it's important to consider how these barriers will be maintained or replaced.
- Cost: Whether it's physical protection, decorative elements or long-term care and maintenance, these factors all add up. A clear budget will help evaluate and prioritize your perimeter requirements.
Factors such as proximity, installation methods and ground surfaces—as well as vehicle type, size and approach speed—will affect the effectiveness of any perimeter barrier. Always be sure to work with a qualified engineer for any bollard installation where physical protection is required.
- Oakes, Charles G. "The Bollard: Non-Crash and Non-Attack-Resistant Models." National Institute of Building Sciences: Whole Building Design Guide. Updated October 2014.
- U.S. General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service. "Chapter 2: Guidelines for Elements and Innovation." The Site Security Design Guide. June 2007.
- Preventative measures reduce risk of vehicle accidents: Sherman Tan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons