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What is a bollard? What are bollards?

Reliance Foundry provides a helpful definition of bollards and an explanation of their use.

A model R-7539 bollard by Reliance Foundry is shown against a white background to demonstrate the appearance of a typical bollard.

The model R-7539 bollard by Reliance Foundry

What is a bollard?

Those that do not work in the architecture, security or landscaping industries may never think of bollards, but they are an essential component of most streetscapes. Though they often go unnoticed, they are a fairly common sight. Simply put, a bollard is a short post, generally 3- 5 feet tall that is used to create either a visual or protective perimeter. They are most commonly recognized as the concrete-filled steel pipes that communicate traffic routes in parking lots and protect pedestrians and property from errant vehicles. Bollards have a long history of use in urban environments and, although they are most often used to prevent vehicle encroachment, many are also used in decorative perimeter highlighting and landscaping applications, as well.

Bollard History

At one time, bollards were used solely for berthing ships but the ancient Romans found a new use for them as mile markers along their roads. Later in Europe, they became tethering posts to which visitors could tie their animals to prevent them from roaming away. The use of bollards grew through medieval times and many European cities began using upturned, enemy cannons as boundary posts and pathway markers. Bollards performed these functions so well that, by the early 1800’s, Dutch companies began manufacturing cast iron bollards. They were eventually brought across the Atlantic and, with the invention of the automobile, bollards became essential devices for many traffic control and security applications.

Present Use of Bollards

Today, bollard use has evolved to serve a vast array of additional functions and their use is widespread. Bollard applications generally fall into three different categories - security, traffic guidance and architectural. To a lesser extent, bollards are also used in landscaping, lighting and bike parking applications.

Security Bollards

Security bollards physically prevent vehicles from entering restricted areas. To provide the necessary level of impact resistance, they are embedded in a concrete substrate and prevent arrant vehicles from breeching the line they create. Security bollards must be crash rated and the level of impact-resistance that a security bollard will provide is measured by what is known as a K rating. Generally, security bollards offer a K-4, K-8, or K-12 rating. K-rated security bollards are used to protect pedestrian entranceways, to prevent ram raid burglaries and to provide perimeter security in anti-terror planning. Ornamentation is often added to security bollards in the form of stylish plastic or metal covers.

Architectural (or decorative) Bollards

Architectural, or decorative, bollards are not used in applications where impact resistance is required. They are installed to create perimeters that are solely visual and to highlight their surrounding architecture. Aesthetic enhancement is the primary function of an architectural bollard, though they also act as perceived impediments to access. This means that for cultural and psychological reasons, decorative bollards will prevent the vast majority of drivers from entering restricted areas even though they do not have the ability to physically prevent encroachment. Decorative bollards are often seen in areas with an historic architectural motif or in courtyards where they border, divide, or define spaces.

Traffic Bollards

Because they act as visual cues, bollards are also ideal tools for guiding traffic. Traffic bollards communicate expected routes and they can be used to manage both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Traffic direction is primarily achieved through the visual presence of the bollard but, depending on the specifics of the application, they can be installed with either decorative, crash rated, removable or retractable mountings. Traffic bollards can be commonly seen in parking lots, parking garages and at the approach to toll booths.

A row of Reliance Foundry’s model R-7589 bollards is shown in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville.

Model R-7589 bollards by Reliance Foundry

Green model R-8302 flexible bollards by Reliance Foundry are shown on a road where they mark out a bicycle path.

Model R-8302 flexible traffic bollards by Reliance Foundry

A row of model R-7744 security bollards by Reliance Foundry sits outside a shop, where they have been installed to prevent burglaries.

Security bollards fit with model R-7744 covers

Looking to purchase bollards?

Reliance Foundry is an industry-leading supplier of economical bollards. With a catalogue that features stainless steel, iron, plastic and steel models, Reliance Foundry offers a solution for every bollard application. In styles ranging from traditional to industrial, bollards by Reliance Foundry clearly define and communicate intended traffic routes, while increasing safety and adding to the architecture of the surrounding streetscape. Reliance Foundry designs every bollard to meet the demands of typical North American environments and to provide an exceptionally-long service life. Reliance Foundry’s bollards are easy to install and require little in terms of ongoing maintenance. Over 100 models are kept in stock and are available for shipment immediately.