It certainly wasn’t the first time a car had crashed into a building on the main street of this picturesque island town. But hopefully it will be the last.
The town of Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, Canada, greenlit the installation of bollards along First Avenue after a driver mistook their gas pedal for their brake pedal and careened through the front window of the E&S Heating and Air Conditioning store.
First Avenue is the winner of 2017’s “Great Street in Canada” Award, given by city planners and based on elements of history, design, culture, accessibility, and economic and social benefit. The charm of the area is immediately obvious. Along the curbs, red brick is laid in a herringbone pattern that stretches across the street in regular intervals as crosswalks. Similar bricks give architectural weight to the Traveler’s Hotel, which stands proudly in the center of the stretch, overlooking a long slope that runs downward to the north-east. Colorful banners and flowers in boxes dot the streetscape.
A street with such character lives on its foot traffic, but a small community must also be accessible to cars. Angle parking along both sides of the street offers rural residents and visitors plentiful space to park. Yet angle-parking drivers do sometimes get in trouble with gas and brake pedal confusion—and end up in storefronts. The hill running north-east is also a culprit. It has pulled out-of-control vehicles downhill.
We spoke to Martin Tang, the owner of the popular First Avenue restaurant Appetit Food for Thought. He has had three separate vehicle crashes affect him since he opened his restaurant 16 years ago.
“The first was very bad for me,” he said. It was early in Mr. Tang’s career, one hot August evening, when a pickup truck rolled free from one of the parking stalls up the slope. It had been left in neutral when parked, and although the driver had remembered to put the e-brake on, gravity fought the brake and won. The truck slipped out of its stall and picked up speed down the hill. It jumped the sidewalk and crashed, tail-lights first, through Mr. Tang’s front window.
Mr. Tang was only just hitting his stride as a restaurateur. A closure during the high tourist season was devastating. “The stress made me sick,” he said of that time. “You don’t know how much something means to you until someone takes it away.” Although ICBC (The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) took care of the repairs to Mr. Tang’s business, the challenge of working his way through the claim and watching his summer customers fade away during his restaurant’s reconstruction caused him a stress-related fever. “Two days after ICBC finalized, my fever was gone,” Mr. Tang remembered, his voice brightening. The whole incident gave him a new appreciation for how much his business, and the town of Ladysmith, means to him.
When Mr. Tang first opened his restaurant, he was only 23 years old. “Being young and foolish, I wanted my own restaurant to be my own boss,” he laughed. Raised in the urban bustle of Hong Kong, Martin was a culinary adventurer: he trained in Germany as a chef and returned to Hong Kong only briefly before coming to Canada. “That day was a big story-of-my-life,” he says. “When I left Hong Kong it was 25°C above. I landed in Winnipeg and it was 25°C below. 50 degrees in one day!”
Mr. Tang shopped around for a place to start a restaurant. He finally chose Ladysmith for its combination of affordability and lifestyle. “It’s a laid-back town,” he says, where people are “down-to-earth.”
Appetit Food for Thought emphasizes simple food generously portioned to its clientele of local regulars and incoming tourists. Mr. Tang specializes in hearty breakfasts for the morning crowd, and Asian stir-fries for the lunch and dinner crowd.
Over the 16 years that Mr. Tang has run his business, he has felt supported by the community and visible within it. Yet he also suggests that Ladysmith knows that good neighbors are made with good fences. Although the neighborhood is close knit and reminds him of an earlier era; it is open-minded, tolerant, and has a live-and-let-live approach. Bollards are a solution that fit the culture of Ladysmith. They allow people to pass unimpeded in their daily routines, but offer the promise of safety and separation.
The crash at E&S was very similar to the most recent incident at Appetit Food for Thought: a driver mistook the gas for the brake. It’s an unnerving experience for witnesses. Mr. Tang watched the car jump the curb and plow into the corner of his building. “I was lucky I was behind a beam. It happens so fast you don’t know how to react!” This time, with years of experience as a business owner and working with ICBC and a contractor, Mr. Tang was able to stay open, with sometimes limited hours, and the stress did not get to him.
Still, he is happy to see some solution be implemented so that vehicles do not keep wandering into storefronts along First Avenue. He is concerned about maintaining the look of the area. “When I first saw [they were planning bollards] I thought they were a great idea,” Mr. Tang said, “but we need to protect the way [Ladysmith] looks.”
When he saw the model of the bollard being installed, he remembered seeing similar in Vancouver and other places. “When they are installed properly they look good,” he said, satisfied—though Mr. Tang would prefer them in green, or another of the color options available in powder-coat.
Many bollard options available
An article in the Ladysmith Chronicle quotes Director of Infrastructure Services Geoff Goodall as to why bollards are a good solution rather than planters or boxes. “We’re trying to find something that’s really simple, doesn’t impede people walking back and forth out of their cars and easy for our sidewalk (snow clearing) machine.”
Fortunately for cities choosing bollards, there are many different decorative options available. Ductile iron or aluminum bollards in a variety of shapes and colors are available to fit the historical charm of a town like Ladysmith. Stainless steel covers can complement urban stainless-and-glass architecture. In parking lots and strip malls, plastic covers for pipe-and-concrete security bollards can allow the posts to stand out in high visibility colors like yellow and red, or to fade in to the background, in colors like brown, grey, or green. Different mounting types offer flexibility in site planning
Bollards are an adaptable option for places wishing to create safety while inviting pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle traffic.