Can the Safety Bollard be Too Sturdy?

Posted by slowstop | 06 June 2017

Human society can only exist when the need for security is balanced against the importance of allowing free access to facilities and resources. Lean too far in either direction, and the results can include a police state on one extreme or chaos on the other. This principle underlies all aspects of civic planning, including the use of the safety bollard.

Safety bollards must protect public safety above all. However, this task should always be balanced against other considerations, such as allowing access to those with legitimate reasons to be on site. Additionally, of course, aesthetics play a role in these matters as well.

The tension between security and public appeal in using safety bollards has led to impassioned debates in urban areas such as New York City. Barriers put in place since the World Trade Center attacks have been criticized for being too utilitarian and foreboding in appearance.

Given the delicate balance that civic planners must maintain between these considerations, how sturdy should safety bollards be? While there are no easy answers to this question, there are some general guidelines to use for specific instances. These include:

  1. Safety bollards should be sufficient to deal with any likely threat. A 10-meter high stone fence, for instance, would be thoroughly inappropriate at a shopping mall where parking control is the main concern. On the other hand, a removable “no trespassing” sign mounted atop a flexible bollard would be similarly inadequate at a nuclear power plant.
  2. Safety bollards must allow ready access to a location, unless such access poses a credible risk to public well-being. To illustrate: it’s sensible to erect sturdy bollards to prevent unauthorized entrance to construction sites. However, such locations must not be so secure as to not allow rapid entrance by fire, medical, or police units in case of emergency.
  3. When possible, safety bollards should be erected in such a way as to add to a site’s visual appeal. For example, bollards can take the form of substantially-sized planters or works of art. In these forms, they enhance safety and beautify the surrounding area at the same time.

To conclude, so long as the need to weigh security against mobility exists, the issue of safety bollard construction will remain a point of contention. However, by following common sense principles like those outlined above, these controversies can be minimized.

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