Bollards are short posts that dot the landscape as visual guides and vehicle obstructions. Their low profile means they often escape notice and consideration. Bollards come in a wide variety of styles, and have many different uses; it can be surprising that two very different site furnishings fall into the same category. With this diversity of bollards available to planners and architects, it’s important to consider all the aspects of a development, in order to pick the best model.
Four major considerations are important when choosing a bollard. These are:
- Vehicle access: should the bollard permanently or temporarily restrict vehicle access?
- Impact protection: what sort of impact, if any, should the bollard absorb?
- Site furnishing: how can the bollard help create a user-friendly site?
- Visual impact: as a visual guide, should the bollard be contrasting, complementary, or unobtrusive?
Bollards are often placed to prevent vehicles from driving through an area, or to guide traffic along preferred routes. In many standard installations, the bollard placement is permanent. The bollard might be embedded in fresh concrete or affixed with bolts, anchors, or adhesives, but it will not be removed unless the site design changes or the bollard is being replaced.
However, in some installations, vehicle access is intended to be variable. Bollards are useful where vehicle permissions change with the season, the use of the site, or the type of vehicle.
Some examples of variable access areas that can use bollards for traffic management are:
- A road through the mountains that is closed every winter
- A stadium that only permits emergency vehicles to come close to the building
- A street that only allows transit access; an area that switches between use for parking or events
- A parking space closed to all but delivery vehicles.
These applications need bollards that can be shifted to allow access at certain times and not others. Even within changing access requirements, architects and site designers have a few options to choose from:
Collapsible or fold-down bollards are hinged bollards that lie down on the road surface to provide access to parking lanes, spots, or service access areas. The central post has a small diameter so that when they are collapsed, even low-slung vehicles can easily pass over them. Certain fold down styles come with bike-locking arms, which lie flat on the ground when folded.
Bollards are becoming well known for their ability to provide impact protection against vehicles. However, it is a mistake to imagine all bollards need to do crash-protection duty. There are many levels of impact resistance, from flexible to completely rigid. Any high-impact bollard has a deep concrete footing and reinforcement throughout. This means that most removable and fold-down bollards are low-impact.
Bollards are visual guides used in placemaking. They mark borders and boundaries, but remain a permeable part of the landscape, unlike a fence or other barrier. Often, their presence denotes a change in an area’s intended use.
A row of bollards along a rural pathway encourages people to hike or bike on the trail without forbidding access to the surrounding landscape. A ring of cast iron bollards hooked with chains suggests people stay out of a garden, yet allows access to retrieve a frisbee or clean up after a pet. A border of bollards separating a building’s frontage from the sidewalk encourages two different walking-speed zones, so that the building’s users do not interrupt or get overwhelmed by the bustle of the sidewalk as they open an umbrella or park a bike. Bollards can also set out a patio, playground, or seating area.
This visual guidance can be architectural and decorative, to enhance the landscape without drawing undue attention, but in other areas might be installed to be more obvious. Along bike routes, in parking lots, and in other traffic situations, high-visibility bollards might be chosen to create lanes.
Visually, bollards can also work as parking posts, showing vehicles the end of the stall in a highly visible way. Unlike concrete stops, they will not scrape up the underside of low bumpers.
Sustainable site furnishings
For organizations with sustainability initiatives, bollards can be hardy, low maintenance site furnishings that answer this mandate and while adding user-friendly features to a space.
Bollards are a visual communication tool. Aesthetic is often a deciding factor when picking the best style for an application.
Bollards of any of these styles might be chosen but then painted or powder coated to remain unobtrusive to a site. For example, strip malls or store fronts may choose bollards in the same color as the building’s exterior, so that the bollards create a barrier but do not distract the eye away from signs or displays.
A mixture of bollard types
Large sites often require different groups of bollards to perform different functions. There might be places where high-impact security is needed as well as places where vehicles have variable access; areas where bike parking is desirable and areas it would be inappropriate.
For any designer, architect, or city planner, aesthetic is an important consideration throughout. Once function at each location is determined, consistent or contrasting styles can be chosen to allow the bollards to fit well with their environment and with each other. Taking care to evaluate all the requirements for both form and function can help a site planner feel confident they’ve chosen the best bollards for their space.