Bollards & Post Covers

In-Ground Safety Bollards

Large black cannon bollards protect the vehicle entrance of a red brick building

A guide to choosing steel pipe bollards

Large black cannon bollards protect the vehicle entrance of a red brick building
Architectural iron covers prevent the concrete and steel pipe in-ground bollard from being an eyesore.

In-ground safety bollards are all around you.

Some are meant to be a safety barrier between vehicles and pedestrians/buildings. Some are engineered and tested to provide additional security protection against more significant, high-speed assaults by vehicles. 

From street level, it’s not always apparent which bollard type is being used. The visible portions of bollards can have more decorative elements added to match the surrounding aesthetic or be more basic (essentially just a large concrete or metal pipe in the ground). 

The inside and underground structures and supports of bollards are built very differently depending on their use. Crash-rated bollards can protect against concerted vehicular attacks. Unrated bollards have some stopping power, but it’s not rated or is unknown. Both are useful to keep people and vehicles where they’re supposed to be, as long as you install the right one for your location and needs. 

Today we’re going to provide an overview of in-ground safety bollards so you know which to use for your perimeters. 

Blue bollards circled with white reflective tape protect a fast-food drive through
Safety bollards do not need engineered footings to protect against shallow angle impact and rubbing.

Bollards for safety vs security

Bollards can be installed for safety and aesthetic purposes or for more high-end security and protective purposes. When installed for primarily safety purposes, the bollards are designed to maintain standard social activity and physical structures in the area. They’re a good choice for protection from low speed or lower risk situations, like preventing people from parking on grass, for example.

Safety bollards can also be installed to keep pedestrians and other traffic away from landscaping or provide a path or access guide. 

Bollards for security may be crash-rated to withstand higher-speed collisions. These have a more specific purpose to protect against more significant danger, loss, and criminal or terrorist activity. Security- or crash-rated bollards are often in place around critical infrastructures like government buildings, hospitals, or financial institutions. 

In a nutshell, if you have critical infrastructure like buildings or utilities to protect, a crash-rated security bollard will likely be the best choice. If you need a perimeter to stop slow-speed vehicles from crashing through or to act as a guide for pedestrian paths, a safety-rated bollard might fit your needs. A mixture of such bollards are often used around large sites.

If you are unsure which type you need, you can get a risk assessment to determine which type is recommended for your use.  Once you have selected the right bollard, you’ll want them spaced close enough so that a vehicle would hit two or more in-ground safety bollards. This can increase their effectiveness.

No matter which bollard you choose, it doesn’t have to become an eyesore. They can be designed with decorative covers so that they look good in the surrounding architecture and surroundings. Most people won’t even recognize that it’s a bollard.

Sizes of in-ground safety bollards and where to use them

In-ground safety bollards are used when crash-rated engineering is unnecessary. Still, they do provide some form of impact protection against moving vehicles, depending on type, installation, and the area’s substrate. In general, the bigger the diameter, the stronger it can withstand impact. An unrated 6-inch bollard only needs a 6000lb vehicle to be travelling at 15mph to be deformed on crash. Still, the same vehicle at a higher speed may not be completely stopped by the bollard, but it will generally slow it down.

Choose a bollard based on the average speed of vehicles in the area or the likelihood of a criminal or terrorist attack on your infrastructure. 

Here are common bollard sizes and where you may choose to install them.

Yellow safety bollards with blue reflective tape protect a gas pump at a gas station
Pipe bollards are often used around pumps, meters, and utility boxes for protection.

4-inch pipe bollards 

These inground safety bollards are best for locations where slow speed impacts at shallow angles are most likely. For example, you’ll often see these beside a drive-through, near air pumps at gas stations, or even as guides in pedestrian spaces. These are areas where cars are travelling at low speeds. 4-inch pipe is excellent for protecting against scraping or rubbing against walls or buildings in tight spaces where drivers may misjudge their vehicle width.

6-inch pipe bollards

6-inch in-ground safety bollards are often recommended by electrical and gas companies to protect utility boxes or meters. They can provide protection for transformers, electrical panels, and gas and electricity access panels or lines. They’re also commonly found in malls, parking garages, and auto dealerships. 

8-inch pipe bollards

Thicker, 8-inch pipe bollards are common in areas that have frequent large truck traffic moving at slower speeds. They provide more space between vehicular traffic and the building or object they are protecting. You’ll commonly find these bollards near docking bays in warehouses.

10-inch pipe bollards covered by fluted decorative steel bollards in front of a yellow brick train station
Large 10-inch pipe bollards are useful in high-traffic situations like this pick-up and drop-off zone.

10-inch pipe bollards

These bollards are often found in higher-impact locations. For example, you’ll often find them to provide a visual guide at busy street corners, as a divider between high-speed traffic lanes, or to protect traffic from impacting a building or entering a pedestrian zone. 

Choosing anti-ram bollards based on ASTM-rating

If you need security above and beyond that offered by standard pipe, you can look into crash-rated bollards – which, although they come in standard pipe sizes, have engineered footings that allow them to be tested and rated for stopping power.

ASTM is a standardized system that rates the structural resistance a bollard will have against an assault (like a vehicle ramming into it). It is based both on vehicle speed and vehicle weights:

VehicleSpeed RatingPenetration Rating
Medium Duty Truck
15,000 lbs
M30–30 mph M40–40 mph M50–50 mphP1 ≤ 3.3 ft P2 3.31–23.0 ft P3 23.1–98.4 ft P4 > 98.4 ft
Small Passenger Car
2,430 lbs
C40–40 mph C50–50 mph C60–60 mph
Pickup Truck
5,070 lbs
PU40–40 mph PU50–50 mph PU60–60 mph
Heavy Goods Vehicle
65,000 lbs
H30–30 mph H40–40 mph H50–50 mph

Both crash rated bollards and steel pipe bollards are very plain to look at: they are steel tubes filled with concrete. At minimum they must be painted to prevent against corrosion, but usually they are covered with decorative covers. These can be as simple as a plastic bollard sleeve or as beautiful as a decorative bollard made of premium ductile iron. There are even architectural steel bollards that can be slid over the steel and concrete core!

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