Bollards and Cycle Safety

Did you know that May is National Bike Month?  And that this year's Bike to Work week is May 12-14th?


Since over half of the US population lives within 5 miles of their workplace, biking is a great alternative to driving. We all know that a little exercise makes us happier and a low impact workout 5 days a week is sure to make us healthier. How could we not get behind something that makes people happier and healthier? And the best part? Our bollards get to play a part!

If you're thinking of reasons not to bike to work this Bike to Work week or trying to find an excuse not to get out on the trail after the work day is over take a moment to think about these stats. The average person looses 13 lbs in their first year of commuting via bicycle. Or how about this one: if 30 million mid-westerners cycled to work during the warmest 6 months of the year it would save 7 billion dollars in health care and mortality costs per year. Can you imagine how that would add up if we scaled it to the entire US population? If that same group of Mid-westerners cycled to work each day we'd also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4 trillion pounds each year. Or  how about this; a study conducted by MIT in Leon, France found that cycling during rush hour reduced travel time by 50%. Not only can you get some good exercise but you might also be able to catch a few extra winks!

So what's keeping all of us from cycling? According to Cycle Toronto, the biggest barrier is the perception of safety. And here's where bollards come into the picture. But not just any bollards, the Federal Highway Administration has a great list of don'ts for bollard use. This helpful site provides a useful list of what to avoid, such as fold down bollards as they are often left in the down position and are a crash hazard to cyclists as are removable bollards with mountings that aren't flush with the pavement. They also have some great dos, such as placing bollards at the intersection of bike baths and roads in order to prevent unwanted vehicle traffic. But bollards aren't just for marking entrances and exits to dedicated bike paths. These folks, The Reasonably Polite Seattleites,  took bollards to a whole new level, by installing them guerrilla style in the middle of the night along a bike lane on the main road.

They wanted to prove how easy it would be for the city to install bollards along the bike lane to provide clear separation between motor vehicle lanes and bicycle lanes, as well as an improved sense of security for the cyclists. These bollard advocates believe that the installation of the bollards make driving lane feel smaller without actually reducing the size which creates more cautious driving and a safer experience for everyone. Although the city had to remove them because they were installed without a permit and didn't conform to the the current state standard, the group succeeded in getting the discussion started. You can read the letter from the Traffic Engineer over at the link.

We think the Reasonably Polite Seattlites installation had some really great things going for it. They installed flexible bollards which are less likely to cause injury to a cyclist if they were to have an accident and less likely to damage a vehicle if a car were to bump into it. They used light colored bollards with reflective striping which increases nighttime visibility. They also installed the bollards with an adhesive pad for easy removal. We would recommend a magnetic base or quick release installation which is a bit more difficult to remove without the correct tools, but the principle is the same: the ability to remove bollards if necessary for emergency access and maintenance.

If the Seattlites have you inspired why not check out the Transportation Alternatives report on bollard use in New York City? This study provides a great list of examples on how different types of bollards are being used to effectively keep cyclists safe in the city. They advocate for the use of permanent steel bollards to alert both cyclists and motorists of intersections as well as the use of flexible plastic bollards along the separation of bike and vehicle lanes.

With the installation of these bollards we can help improve how safe cyclists feel and remind drivers that they are sharing the road with bikes as well as other cars. And do you know what happens when more people feel safe cycling on the road? More people cycle! And when more people cycle the road actually becomes a safer place for cyclists. So what do you say? Are you game for this year's National Bike Month or Bike to Work Week? We want to see what cycling looks like in your town. Snap us a photo of how your city is keeping cyclists safe on the road, how about a picture of your towns wonderful bike paths, or a shot of some beautiful bollards hanging around town. Now get out there and cycle!