In our society, vehicles piloted by distracted drivers speed through roadways, neighborhoods and parking lots, often barely missing cars, buildings and equally distracted pedestrians. One misstep can result in tragedy. Responsible government officials, facility administrators and store owners can help minimize risk in neighborhoods and communities. Protective bollards can be an excellent means to reducing potential hazards—by offering strong visual cues and physical protection. But, before getting into possible solutions, let's look at some of the challenges.
With so many drivers—and so many tons of fast-moving steel—travelling our roads, we all understand and respect the need for protective infrastructure. In the United States in 2012, 33,561 people died in roadway crashes and an estimated 2.36 million were injured. Some of the top causes include distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving, running red lights or stop signs and inclement weather. Approximately one third of all motor-vehicle fatalities are related to speed.
Protective bollards prevent ram raid intrusions
Cars crashing into buildings is a surprisingly common occurrence, and these types of crashes cause 10 serious injuries each day in the United States, according to Rob Reiter, a storefront safety expert and one of the founders of the Storefront Safety Council. Cars crash into grocery stores, gas stations, homes, hospitals and about any kind of building you can imagine.
"There are additional dangers we deal with when a car hits a building," Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Ignatius Carroll said. In addition to cars injuring people on initial impact, other dangers include people being trapped under building rubble and in cars, structurally unsafe buildings collapsing later and fires breaking out from damaged electrical wires and equipment.
The problem, in fact, is so bad that there is a movement in many communities to require commercial buildings and retail establishments to put up protective metal barriers. In 2012, Miami-Dade County approved a barrier law after Laymet Albelo and seven-month pregnant Celeste Gaitan were killed when a car struck them as they sat on a bench in front of a store in a shopping center. Similar scenarios play out all too often across North America. In fact, there is even a Google map that marks 262 instances of cars running into buildings in Buffalo, New York since 2006 (figure last checked January 11, 2016).
Parking lot accidents
Parking lots are much more dangerous than you probably think. Studies show that both drivers and pedestrians are distracted by their errands, and worse, that drivers in parking lots routinely exhibit competitive, territorial and passive-aggressive behaviors when searching for "their" parking spots. Even when drivers have the best of intentions, cars move erratically, backing up, changing speeds and changing directions suddenly, which can compromise safety.
- About 20 percent of all vehicle accidents occur in parking lots.
- 15–30 percent of severe injuries occur in parking lots.
- 19 percent, almost one in five, of all pedestrian-related parking lot accidents result in incapacitating injuries.
In another post, we look at how bollards can play a huge role in effective parking lot design.
Smash and grab robbery
A smash and grab, sometimes called a ram-raid, is when a thief smashes a window or other barrier, grabs valuable merchandise and gets away quickly. Sometimes thieves drive vehicles right through front display windows or entrances. Stores not only lose their merchandise, but can also suffer expensive structural damage to their buildings. These burglaries are an all-too-common reality.
Steel pipe bollards: A critical tool in calming traffic and safeguarding people and property
Steel pipe bollards ship standard with primer coating
There are a number of solutions to these challenges, many of which are complementary to each other. Traffic islands, dedicated pedestrian areas, road narrowings and curb build-outs can be effective traffic calming strategies that help direct vehicles and establish safer pedestrian flows. Instrumental to many of these solutions, and on their own, traffic bollards are an effective tool in the ongoing effort to protect people and property. This post looks at traffic calming strategies in more detail.
You may not have taken much notice of steel pipe bollards, used often as both traffic and security posts, but they are the silent guardians, the mute protectors, of people, property and vehicles. Steel pipe bollards are the mainstay of perimeter security and traffic guidance. Put simply, they are steel pipes embedded in concrete, but their function is huge. They provide a high level of impact resistance and offer strong visual cues for drivers. When installed in a line, they keep vehicles out while allowing those on foot to come and go at will. They can be used anywhere to prevent vehicle access—as well as along building edges, between traffic lanes and bordering pedestrian or green areas.
Here are just some places where bollard posts are used:
- Pedestrian areas
- Office buildings
- Retail storefronts
- Parking lots, indoor and outdoor
- Commercial driveways
- Industrial sites
- Warehouse entrances
- Transit hubs
- Stadium grounds
- Hospitals entryways
- Gas stations
- Construction sites
- Toll booths
- Outdoor service facilities, such as ATM stands or ticket booths
- Locations with high amounts of vulnerable populations
- Anywhere security is important
- High-traffic locations of any kind
Precast concrete also offers a high level of impact protection. You can read more about the benefits of precast concrete bollards here.
Installing steel pipe bollards
Install protective bollards in existing concrete
Proper installation is important when it comes to impact resistance. Steel pipe bollards should be embedded securely in concrete. At sites where a concrete surface has already been poured and the concrete has set, an installation hole should be dug to at least the depth of the site's frost line. (An area's frost line depth can be established at the local building inspection department.) Generally, the diameter of the installation hole should be at least 6 inches bigger than the outside diameter of the pipe. Once the hole is dug, the steel pipe can be positioned and the concrete poured around the pipe and in its interior. You may want to consult an engineer to determine the exact requirements for specific locations, especially for sensitive security applications.
* Note: As installation requires breaching ground surfaces, ensure that underground utility lines pose no risk. This may require an X-ray scan in advance of any core drilling.
If you're looking for information on how to plan a security bollard installation, you can read more about how to evaluate surrounding landscapes and additional risk factors.
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Steel bollard maintenance: The case for plastic covers
Plastic post covers increase visibility
Because they are composed of heavy duty steel, metal posts are susceptible to oxidization in damp climates and coastal areas. Paint can provide a minor level of protection from rain, snow, ice and de-icing salts, but painting usually needs to be done annually. If bollards are left untreated, temperature and moisture can compromise their integrity over time.
Alternatively, plastic bollard covers offer a more efficient, cost-effective form of post protection. Composed of polyethylene, they will not fade, chip or crack—and will keep steel pipe bollards looking their best through years of exposure to the elements. Brightly colored, contemporary bollard covers are made from high-density polyethylene that contains ultraviolet and anti-static additives to withstand extreme environmental conditions and reduce maintenance costs. Covers may also be ordered with reflective stripes in various colors.
Plastic covers are a great way to upgrade existing bollards that may be dented and scratched but still structurally sound. They can be installed by virtually anyone in minutes and require minimal ongoing maintenance.
The more decorative, traditional looking bollard colors are made of a low density polyethylene (LDPE) formulation that offers more ornamental detail while providing great protection.
When you order plastic covers for your steel bollards, you can
- Reduce maintenance costs by eliminating the need for regular painting
- Increase visibility, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidents
- Protect your bollards so they last longer
What to look for in bollards and posts
Toughness: ASTM 500 B structural grade steel is used to create extremely versatile steel pipe bollards, many of which offer a high level of impact resistance. ASTM 500 B steel is a highly durable material that resists deformation or failure when struck. One of the most commonly specified grades of steel for creating support structures, it has a high strength-to-weight ratio. Resistant to fire and also to swelling and shrinkage due to weather fluctuations, ASTM 500 B steel is one of the most common materials used in the construction industry.
Thickness: Bollard thickness is determined by its schedule; the higher the schedule, the thicker the pipe. For most applications you will probably want schedule 40 pipe. Buying pipe thicker than what you need can be a waste of money.
Diameter: Look for a steel bollard with a diameter that meets your needs. At Reliance Foundry, we stock four sizes of schedule 40 bollards.Steel Pipe Bollard Sizes and ASTM 500B Wall Thickness
|Bollard Model||Schedule||Inside Diameter||Outside Diameter||ASTM 500B Wall Thickness||R-1007-04||40||4 in||4.5 in||0.237 in|
|R-1007-06||40||6 in||6.625 in||0.28 in|
|R-1007-08||40||8 in||8.625 in||0.322 in|
|R-1007-10||40||10 in||10.75 in||0.365 in|
Already primed: Reliance Foundry's steel pipe bollards arrive already coated with red primer. Other surfaces and colors are also available.
Competitively priced: Don't pay more than you have to. Just be sure you are looking at the same sizes, standards and schedules when comparing prices.
One-stop shopping: Get your pipe bollards and your plastic bollard covers from the same company for easy delivery and customer service.
Fast delivery: Look for a company that can get steel pipes to you when you need them. At Reliance Foundry, every standard model is kept in stock and is available for immediate shipment from a centrally-located US location.
Reputation for reliability and great customer service: Good prices don't mean much if you can't get the help you need. Look for an established company that knows its business and is ready to talk with you when you need it.
Steel pipe bollards and plastic post covers from Reliance Foundry
Protect steel pipe bollards with plastic covers
Reliance Foundry offers both steel pipe bollards and a variety of commercial and decorative plastic bollard covers. All products are kept in stock and available for immediate shipment from a centrally located US location.
Please note that Reliance Foundry makes no claims as to the level of impact resistance provided by its steel pipe bollards. For site-specific applications, please consult an engineer.
- Ben-Joseph, Eran. Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. MIT Press, 2012.
- "Buffalo: World Capital of Drivers Crashing into Buildings," Google Maps.
- Chen, Adrian. "Buffalo Hit by Epidemic of People Crashing Into Buildings," Gawker (October 12, 2011).
- Department for Transport (UK). "Traffic bollards and low level traffic signs," Traffic Advisory Leaflet 3/13 (September 2013).
- Dupuy, Beatrice and Carli Teproff. "A crash course: Why do so many cars smash into buildings?" Miami Herald (August 6, 2014).
- Liu, Cejun, Chou-Lin Chen, Rajesh Subramanian, and Dennis Utter. Analysis of Speeding-Related Fatal Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes. US Department of Transportation, June 2005.
- Oakes, Charles G. "The Bollard: Non-Crash and Non-Attack-Resistant Models," Whole Building Design Guide (October 23, 2014).
- Stark, John A. Parking Lots: Where Motorists Become Pedestrians. University of Albany, April 23, 2012.
- Transportation Alternatives. Rethinking Bollards: How Bollards Can Save Lives, Prevent Injuries and Relieve Traffic Congestion in New York City. Transportation Alternatives, July 2007.
- US Department of Transportation. "2012 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview," Traffic Safety Facts. November, 2013.