What are Bollards Used For? Bollard Definitions & Types of Bollards

Bollards for walkway safety

What are Bollards Used For? Bollard Definitions & Types of Bollards

Modern day bollards are sturdy posts which block vehicle access from restricted roads or pedestrian areas. While you may not have known this bollard definition off hand, you probably see these simple yet sturdy structures nearly everywhere you go, from parking lots to bike paths.

Originally, however, these structures were neither simple posts nor primarily used for traffic control. Historically speaking, bollards were set up along piers and boat docks to assist with tying up boats and were made from old canons whose muzzles were buried so that just the bases appearing above ground for ropes to attach to. Some of these canon bollards can still be seen along old docks, like in the picture below.

Historical canon bollard

The most common bollard type these days is a simple metal post with a bollard cover in a highly visible color like yellow. But they don't always look so industrial. More decorative bollard styles like the ones which line bike paths and walkways are more elaborate, elegant, and may even serve double purposes as light fixtures or bike locks.

We'll discuss these various bollard types below.

In this post we'll cover:

1. What is a bollard post?
2. What is a bollard cover?
3. What is a bollard used for? 


What is a bollard post? 

Bollards For Security

As discussed above, in its most basic form, a bollard post is a simple steel post installed to block or impede traffic and protect both buildings and pedestrians.

Some bollard posts are sturdier than others with some even designed to be truly crash-resistant so that they can withhold impact and protect both buildings and people from car-ramming attacks. These crash-resistant bollards must pass impact-resistance tests. High security buildings such as government facilities may secure their grounds with this type of crash-resistant bollard, especially if there's a concern for vehicle-based terrorist attacks or ram-raiding burglaries. Cars are powerful forces, after all, and it takes more than a simple steel post to stop a high-speed impact.

Even so, non-crash-resistant bollards can still successfully increase safety. After all, it's hard for a layperson to tell from the outer appearance exactly how impact-resistant a bollard is. This alone can dissuade vehicle attacks. Whether the bollard is truly impact resistant or not, the driver notices that vehicle impediments have been installed.  


What is a bollard cover? 

Bollard covers

Businesses who want to protect their storefronts with these sturdy bollard posts often want to do so without greatly disrupting the attractive storefront appearance they've carefully designed to attract customers and create curb appeal. In short, they want their security bollard to blend in.

On the other hand, warehouse and factory workers may want to accentuate how noticeable and visible these safety barriers are. They want their security bollards to stand out even more!

This is why bollard covers are about as common as bollards themselves. These simple, high-density plastic covers slip directly over standard bollards and fit snugly on top without adhesives. Many also allow for the addition of reflective tape to best optimize for safety.  

This allows businesses to optimize for visibility or coordinate with existing design themes. 


What is a bollard used for? 4 Primary uses for bollards.

As discussed above, bollards can keep pedestrians and storefronts safe from accidental or intentional vehicle damage by either implying impenetrability, or by creating a truly impenetrable barrier. 

But we can look at the purpose of a bollard a little more granularly as well.

1) Bollards for blocking traffic permanently. 

It is very common for parking lots and streets to require permanent separation from other traffic areas or from pedestrian areas. For instance there may be work areas which are closely connected to parking lots, but must be protected from vehicles. Or there may be streets which are strictly for walkers and bikers.

In these cases, in-ground or surface mounting is not an issue, because the bollard will be permanently in place once installed.

Some store fronts choose to use large concrete planters as their security bollards. Again, this is an ideal choice for situations where a permanent barrier is needed since these heavy structures would be difficult to move once in place.


2) Bollards for blocking traffic temporarily.

Retractable Bollards

Many situations call for temporary or scheduled traffic blockage. For instance some cities allow their main street to accommodate traffic on the weekdays, and pedestrians on the weekends. Other streets may open or close to traffic based on business hours or seasonality.

In such cases as these, retractable bollards are particularly useful. These bollards fit into in-ground sleeves. When extended, they look like ordinary bollards, but they can be lowered down into the sleeves to be flush with the ground when traffic is allowed.


3) Bollards for messaging and awareness.

Traffic Bollard

Even though they are not sturdy enough to actually impede vehicle penetration, there are a number of bollards which simply serve as visual guidelines for where traffic is or isn't allowed to go.

These traffic bollards tend to be made from durable but lightweight plastics and enhanced with reflective tape or traffic safety coloring. You may find these lightweight bollards along bike lanes for instance.

Like traffic bollards, media bollards are also made from more lightweight materials which can be set up and torn down easily. They have broad surfaces however, to allow for posting signage. 

Each of these bollards are meant less for physically impeding traffic penetration and more for warning drivers about where they can and can't go. 


4) Multi-purpose bollards.

bike rack bollard

When you need to line an entire walkway or bike path with safety bollards, it's common sense for these structures to offer additional functionality. For instance bollards with built-in lighting help to increase visibility and safety for bicyclists and walkers without the need for expensive outdoor lamp posts. 

Speaking of bike paths, it does not take much to transform a security bollard into one which can accommodate bike locking, but a simple bollard post cannot safely do this. Bike lock bollards can be positioned periodically throughout a line of standard bollards so that bicyclists can have a safe place to lock their bikes. Usually a simple circular loop along the bollard is all that's needed for safe bicycle parking.

If you'd like to read more about bollards specifically for bike paths and walkways, this post can help!


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