Bollards are one of the most overlooked items that people come across every day, and yet they do not know how important these short, robust posts really are. In this article you will learn about these inconspicuous little posts that have different purposes, from protecting establishments, controlling traffic flow, and other practical uses. You will also know the different types, from the usual concrete bollard to the hi-tech retractable bollards. After reading this article not only will you learn about these usually ignored security devices, you will also get a new found respect for them and the job they do.
What are Bollards?
The term bollard was once only used to describe the hitching post on the bow of a boat where a line from a tugboat is tied around on, it also holds the line that moors the boat on the docks tied to another short, thick wooden post that is incidentally also called a bollard. Now the term bollard usually pertains to the concrete bollards that line the sidewalks along busy streets, and almost all of the other waist-high posts jutting out of the pavement.
Different Uses of Bollards
For Managing Vehicular Traffic
Yellow-colored steel bollards, sometimes even steel bollards are used to direct traffic. Since these short posts are right at eye-level of most drivers riding in cars, bollards are perfect for mounting traffic signs. And sometimes the bollards themselves are the traffic signs, some cities actually use illuminated plastic bollards to direct motorists to their correct lanes at night.
For Guiding Vehicles into the Correct Parking Slots
Steel bollards are usually used in these cases; the bollards are placed in between parking slots so that the cars are forced to park in between the posts. These will ensure that there is ample space in between vehicles.
For Security Purposes
Security bollards are placed in front of important establishments to protect them from surprise vehicular attacks. These strong steel bollards can withstand strong impacts from cars and even from large trucks. These bollards are often used in conjunction with concrete traffic barriers to provide extra protection.
Decorative bollards are often placed along pathways or in front of buildings as a part of the architectural design. Oftentimes cast iron bollards are used for this purpose but there are also some precast concrete bollards with intricate designs that serve the purpose well. These bollards sometimes have lights placed inside them so they can also light the way at night.
For Controlling Pedestrian Traffic
Steel or concrete bollards are sometimes placed along the edges of sidewalks and chains are strung in between them to discourage people from walking on the street or jaywalking. Bollards are also used as a barrier around historical monuments, so people would not be able to go too near the structures and possibly damage them. The bollards also protect the pedestrians walking on the sidewalks; in case a car goes out of control it will just hit the bollards and not climb up the sidewalk and run over pedestrians.
The constructions of bollards actually differ from one type to another, depending on their purpose. But they all share the same design characteristics, just in a different scale. There are basically just two components that make a good bollard; the foundation and the post.
The foundation of the bollard needs to be very secure, and planted deep underneath the ground. The foundation needs to be very secure because this will determine the total strength of the structure. If the foundation is not embedded deep enough the bollard will just fall over or get uprooted if a strong force, like a speeding vehicle, gets applied on it.
As a rule bollard posts are short and thick all around. This is so the center of gravity of the bollard is very near to the ground so heavy forces acting onto it will get transferred into the foundation and spread out into the earth below. If a bollard post is longer than the prescribed height there is a good chance that it will break of at the base, thus defeating the purpose of the bollard as an effective crash barrier.
Types of Bollards
There are basically three types of bollards: the fixed, removable, and the retractable bollards.
Like the name states, fixed bollards are those that are put in their place permanently. These are usually concrete bollards that are cast in place, though sometimes cast iron bollards are placed in the same way. These are usually used as protection for commercial establishments located along a busy street, in case someone loses control of a vehicle and heads straight for the establishment. The bollards will absorb the impact and protect the property and the lives of people inside.
These bollards are used in some cities to cordon off traffic in some avenues during certain times and then removed when they need to get opened for vehicular traffic. These bollards are usually made from cast iron or stainless steel, and temporarily yet securely fixed onto a concrete base that is permanently embedded in the pavement.
These are technically fixed bollards, but since the can retract into the ground to allow access, these steel bollards are given a separate type. Often you will see these kinds of security bollards in high risk facilities like embassies and state prisons. These are more effective than removable bollards because they can allow access instantly at just a push of a button.
The Lowly Bollard
Now that you have had a brief introduction as to what bollards are and what they can do for you, you must have had a new found respect for these little steel or concrete traffic barriers. Now you know that these steel or concrete bollards are placed there for a purpose, and one of them is to protect you from harm. So the next time you pass by one just give it a quick glance and appreciate all the things that this simple little post does for mankind.