By Brad Done

Parking lot safety all comes down to selecting the right bollard

Bollards are often over-looked but they play a significant role in the safety and aesthetics of almost every business. In a way, they are kind of like the masked vigilantes of a superhero movie—they never ask for thanks, they just silently protect the citizens and structures around them. That analogy might be a bit dramatic, but bollards really can save lives and prevent property damage. The key is selecting the right type for your business.

In its simplest form, a bollard is an unadorned metal post used in front of buildings or other outdoor spaces in which the flow of traffic must be controlled. They are normally spaced out so that typically-sized vehicles can’t get through them and this makes them an essential component of safe perimeters and parking lots. Bollards are available in varying colors, heights, widths and degrees of ornamentation and impact-resistance.  A properly-chosen bollard will blend with a business’ architecture while providing an adequate level of impact-resistance to prevent property damage and protect pedestrians.

Normally, a business will select various types of traffic control bollard to perform these tasks on their property. Traffic bollards perform serval functions: they can help separate cars and pedestrians, clearly delineate where traffic is supposed to flow, block cars from pedestrian walk-ways, visually aid traffic in areas notorious for limited visibility, and enclose car-free zones.

Types of traffic control bollards

Not all traffic patterns are the same, and neither are all traffic control bollards. The type of bollard that should be selected depends on its primary purpose—will it be directing traffic in an area with changing traffic patterns, blocking off an area for an event, separating a bike lane, directing parking lot traffic, or doing something else entirely?

Here are four of the most commonly-used traffic bollards:

Steel pipe bollards

Steel pipe bollards are, by far, the most commonly-used bollards in parking lots and around buildings. They are set in a concrete substrate and filled with concrete to provide impact resistance from vehicles bumping into them. Because of this, they are often used to guide traffic and protect pedestrians and property from errant vehicles. Many manufacturers even certify the ability of their bollards to stop vehicles travelling at certain speeds; the designation these bollards are given is known as a K-rating.

Steel pipe bollards have a very basic look but they can be painted or covered with a plastic post covers to increase visibility and improve their aesthetic value. For higher-end businesses, stainless steel and ornamented iron covers are also available. Steel pipe bollards should be used in traffic applications where vehicle encroachment presents a real threat.

Removable bollards

Removable bollards are sturdy and look like permanent bollards, but they can be removed from a receiver in the ground to permit vehicle access when needed. Though they are excellent for providing visual cues to drivers, they do not provide an adequate level of impact resistance to stop a vehicle.

Removable bollards are useful in areas that see increased vehicle traffic during large-scale events, areas that may occasionally need to be designated as “car-free” due to a high volume of foot traffic, or in areas that only authorized vehicles are permitted to enter.

Retractable bollards

Retractable bollards are a closely related to removable bollards but feature several distinct differences. They are more expensive than removable bollards, but they can quickly and smoothly be retracted into a concrete receiver below the ground. When they are fully retracted, the receiver is covered and lies flush with the ground to prevent trip and fall accidents. Though this bollard does not offer a high level of impact-resistance, it is useful in many of the same situations that you would use removable bollards but retractable bollards don’t require additional storage space when not in use. They are often an ideal choice for areas that need to be kept free of vehicles so that emergency vehicles may enter.

Flexible bollards

Flexible traffic bollards are rigid enough to give the appearance of sturdy steel bollards but they are actually composed of plastic polymer. They can bend up to ninety degrees upon impact with a vehicle and will return to their original form afterwards. This type of bollard is particularly useful for marking parking lots or curves in the road where driver may turn their cars too sharply without realizing it—unless they have a visual cue (like a traffic bollard) to help direct them. Pedestrians and building owners appreciate the clear boundaries flexible bollards establish, and any drivers that do bump into them are relieved not to have damaged their vehicle.

Collapsible bollards

Collapsible or “fold-down” bollards are adjustable posts that appear like any other bollard, but can be collapsed or folded down to the ground to allow vehicles to pass over top.  These are typically used in parking lots or parking garages where vehicle owners want to control or block access to their parking spots, or if they want to “lock” their vehicles into place in a parking spot as a theft deterrent.  A simple collapsible bollard can be inexpensive, easy to install and highly visible addition to a parking area.

Managing traffic and creating safe routes for pedestrians is paramount to the success of a business. This process starts with assessing the primary needs of the lot to determine what type of traffic bollard will be the best fit. The right traffic bollard will provide an adequate level of impact resistance for the application and compliment the surrounding architecture. Remember that a customer’s first impression of your business comes in the parking lot and the site perimeter, and effectively controlling traffic and ensuring that your customers are safe all play into this. Advertise your concern for their safety by selecting the right traffic bollard for your business.


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