Choosing the right traffic bollard for site security

November 24, 2017

Bollard posts increase safety and security in parking lots and can also enhance a site’s architectural design.
All photos courtesy Reliance Foundry Co. Ltd.

by Brad Done
According to the National Safety Council, two-thirds of all drivers are distracted when pulling into a parking lot[2]. As well, one in five car crashes occur within these lots. With so many accidents occurring around public spaces, it is vital to consider parking lot security for any construction site.

Bollard posts are a direct enhancement to any structure’s safety, but are often overlooked. They play a significant role in both safety and aesthetics for almost any business. These simple, practical, and cost-effective security devices create barriers to protect pedestrians, buildings, and other vehicles.

The concept of a bollard is rather simple: an unadorned metal post placed in front of buildings or other outdoor spaces to control traffic flow. When installed, bollards are usually spaced to prevent standard vehicles from fitting between them, making them an essential part of safe perimeters and parking lots.

Despite the simplicity of bollard posts, they come in varying colors, degrees of ornamentation, and impact-resistance. With many design varieties, properly chosen bollards enhance a site’s architectural design, while providing a controlled traffic setting.

Every building and site has factors that must be addressed. Whether this be the site’s proximity to traffic, the building and road orientations, or the structure’s criminal vulnerability, it is important to consider the surrounding environment. Consideration of these risk factors will dictate the ideal type of traffic bollard.

With every site comes a different traffic situation to control. When selecting a bollard, consider the prime purpose for the device and the security risks the bollard is to address. Is the post designed to protect a vital structure entrance? Or is it meant to direct traffic in an area with varying traffic patterns, or something completely different? Understanding the difference and use of most commonly used security bollards is key to finding the best answer for site security and traffic control.

Steel-pipe bollards
Simple in both design and function, steel-pipe bollards are the most common type of bollard found around buildings and parking lots. These hollow pipes are placed in a concrete substrate and filled with concrete, increasing impact resistance from vehicle impacts. Their cost-effective nature makes them ideal for traffic guidance, and serves to protect pedestrians and property from errant vehicles.

Removable bollards provide temporary traffic security and are fitting for sites requiring flexible vehicle access. 

Some manufacturers test the exact ability of their bollards to stop vehicles traveling at specific speeds. These bollards receive a designation called a K-rating[4], showing the barrier has received a crash test certification issued by the Department of State.

As unadorned metal pipe cylinders, steel-pipe bollards have a simple, sleek design. However, they can also be painted or covered with a decorative post cover. This allows them to help enhance local building and landscape design, as well as increase bollard visibility for drivers. Steel-pipe bollards are most effective for traffic applications where vehicle encroachment is an issue. They can be considered for parking lots, heavily trafficked sidewalks, and sensitive locations from which vehicles need to be deterred away (e.g. storefront entrances or windows).

Removable bollards
While the removable bollard appears steadfast and looks virtually identical to traditional permanent bollards, it can be removed via an underground receiver to which the bollard post is attached. Due to the removable nature of these bollards, they are ideal for allowing flexible vehicle access. However, because of the removable installation process, they provide less impact resistance than other security bollards. They are excellent at traffic control, and a metal design creates a visual deterrent for vehicles.

Removable bollards are most suited for sites requiring versatile configurations, or temporary traffic security. They could be used in public spaces where activities and vehicle access vary with day-to-day events and activities. They also provide additional security for areas requiring a varying ‘car-free’ designation or in authorized vehicle areas.

Retractable bollards are ideal for security checkpoints, as they are able to quickly and completely retract into an underground receiver.

Retractable bollards
Retractable bollards are most commonly associated with security checkpoints, and for good reason. These traffic posts are related to removable bollards, but hold several key differences. Despite a higher price point, the retractable bollard can quickly and automatically retract fully into an underground receiver. This convenient design eliminates the requirement for extra bollard storage, and prevents tripping hazard, as the receiver is covered once the bollard has fully retracted.

When implemented on a site, retractable bollards provide for many security considerations as their removable brethren. They also are highly ideal for areas needing examination of each entering vehicles on a case-by-case basis, like airports and other secure public spaces. They are also well-suited for structures requiring exclusive entrances for emergency vehicles, like hospitals.

Collapsible bollards
An alternative option to removable or retractable bollards is the collapsible bollard post. Such bollards are adjustable, due to their hinged mounting receivers. Despite appearing as any other bollard, these collapsible pieces can be folded down against the ground or locked upright with a single padlock. The adjustability of the post allows vehicles to drive over top the bollard when positioned in ‘fold-down’ mode.

Collapsible bollards are traditionally found in parking garages or parking lots where vehicle owners want to control access to specific parking spots. These simple operable bollards control service lane access, and are good additions to most parking areas. They can also be used to reserve parking spaces for designated vehicles.

Flexible bollards indicate traffic guidelines as strong visual indicators. These posts are effective in high-traffic areas because their design minimizes vehicle damage caused by accidental collisions.

Flexible bollards
Flexible traffic bollards are made from a durable plastic polymer. With the appearance of sturdy steel, these bollards are sturdy on their own, but bend under pressure. On impact with a vehicle, the flexible bollard bends up to 90 degrees before returning to its original form without damage. Due to the longevity they offer, flexible bollards are well-suited to minimize vehicle damage caused by collisions, while indicating traffic guidelines as strong visual indicators.

These posts are effective in high-traffic environments, especially in areas prone to accidental impact. Flexible plastic bollards can be used to highlight curves in the road where drivers may turn too sharply without a visual cue to notify them of potential collision.

These bollards can serve as a solution for areas in need of strong visual traffic indicators, such as extended sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic medians. Flexible but sturdy, they require less upkeep, even after several impacts, allowing them to save site providers money that would go to repairs or replacements.

The management of vehicle traffic and the safety of site-users is essential for businesses and public spaces. Visitors will notice the use of traffic bollards and appreciate the added security. Besides reassuring site patrons, proper traffic control bollards are cost-efficient, especially over a long period. By providing a physical and visual barrier, they protect structural damages and reduce threats to human life.

Traffic bollard selection begins with assessing the primary needs of the lot to determine what type of product will be the best fit. If properly selected, a traffic bollard protects an adequate amount of collision while improving and complementing the surrounding area’s visual characteristics.

A visitor’s first impression of any public space comes from the surrounding perimeter and the car park. Effectively controlling traffic and ensuring your customers’ safety all play into this. The consideration for visitor safety increases confidence in a site’s protection, encouraging safer traffic movements and pedestrian activity.

Brad Done is the vice president at Reliance Foundry Co Ltd[7]. Leading product development, sales, and marketing activities, he has more than 30 years of experience under his belt in manufacturing bollards, commercial bike racks, and other outdoor metal products. Done has covered a wide range of articles on site security, urban planning, and the site furnishing industry. He can be contacted at[8].

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