Traffic Bollards: Ideal Pedestrian Safety Products

Posted by slowstop | 06 June 2017

Traffic bollards are perhaps the most effective and most versatile of all pedestrian safety products. They perform a host of duties ranging from traffic calming to restricting access to sensitive areas. Today’s bollards can even do double-duty as garden planters, pathway lights, or works of art. Rarely has an invention proven to be so simple and so useful.

Traffic bollards are grouped according to material and function. The most common types in use today are permanent and temporary bollards. Each serves an important role in modern transportation infrastructure.

Permanent Bollards

These are usually made of steel, very often reinforced with concrete inside. In Europe, it’s common to see traffic bollards made in the shape of cannon barrels, a design tradition from the 19th century when leftover cannons were used for this purpose. These bollards prevent trucks and cars from entering areas reserved for cyclists, those on foot, or specialized vehicles.

Permanent bollards can cause severe damage to a vehicle that strikes them. This makes them ideal for high-security applications where an immovable barrier is needed. They are increasingly common in today’s world due to the uptick in terrorist activity across the globe. For example, a substantial number bollards were erected in Glasgow after the 2007 assault on that city’s international airport.

Some people feel that these types of bollards appear too foreboding or militaristic for widespread use. For example, in post-9/11 New York City, many citizens complained about the bollards that were promptly erected around police stations, military facilities, public buildings, and other sensitive areas. One way to address these concerns is to build traffic bollards in the shapes of planters, statues, or other decorative items.

Temporary Bollards

In most cases, such as periods of road construction, temporary traffic bollards are used instead. These products offer a number of advantages over permanent bollards:

  • Mobility - temporary bollards can be used on the spot as needed and can then be relocated or placed in storage.
  • Affordability – temporary bollards cost far less than permanent structures and require much less installation time.
  • Safety – most temporary bollards are designed to bend rather than break when struck. This helps to prevent both vehicle damage and injury to errant motorists. Yet these products are also highly visible due to their bright colors, which makes them excellent pedestrian safety products.

One common use of temporary bollards is in school zones, where students cross the road early in the morning or mid-afternoon. Crossing guards may erect these structures either on mobile bases or in pre-drilled holes.

These bollards are also used at entryways to concert venues, medical clinics, and places of worship where pedestrian traffic is heavy but intermittent. When pedestrian traffic slows, the temporary bollards can simply be picked up and put in storage until they’re needed once more. In some locations, bollards are permanently installed into recessed openings and raised or lowered as needed with remote controls.

Traffic bollards can also be outfitted with electric lights. This makes them ideal for use alongside pedestrian walkways where they offer supplementary illumination at night or during periods of inclement weather. Illuminated bollards are also used to mark the “splitter islands” that form the centers of roundabouts. Sometimes these bollards are connected to the power grid with underground wires; other times they rely on built-in solar panels and batteries.

Architects are increasingly finding ways to reimagine traditional designs of both temporary and permanent traffic bollards to improve their aesthetic appeal while retaining their value as pedestrian safety products. This is especially common in “artsy” sections of major cities in the US and Europe.


Every day, the world grows more developed and interconnected. While this has created unprecedented opportunities for personal enrichment and economic progress, it also poses new challenges for public safety officials. So long as this is the case, traffic bollards of all types will continue to be used.

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