Friday, September 17, 2010

Bike Path Bollards

A hot topic for Brisbane-area cyclists is Council's use of these barriers to prevent vehicles from driving on off-street bikeways:

Cyclists contend that these barriers pose a crash danger to riders and, at a minimum, create an unnecessary pinch point. But Council maintains that these are needed to keep people from taking their cars right on the path. As of now, they are still installed as standard practice.

However, guidance from other cities and countries tends to recommend bollards only as a last resort and when actually needed. The US Federal Highway Administration offers the following guidance:

Trail managers should question whether bollards, gates, fences, or other barriers are needed at all. For the purpose of the bullets below, “bollard” includes bollards, gates, fences, or any other barrier constructed or installed next to, within, or across a trail presumably to restrict unauthorized access.

  • Even "properly" installed bollards constitute a serious and potentially fatal safety hazard to unwary trail users. In addition, no bollard layout that admits bicycles, tricycles, and bicycle trailers can exclude single-track motor vehicles such as motorcycles and mopeds. For these reasons, bollards should never be a default treatment, and should not be used unless there is a documented history of intrusion by unauthorized cars, trucks, or other unauthorized vehicles.
  • A landscaped median may be an appropriate method to reduce the likelihood that somebody might think the shared use path is a public street or driveway. See "What kind of barrier will keep cars off a bike path?" by John Williams and Kathleen McLaughlin, originally published in Bicycle Forum (Issue 30, August 1992), now NCBW Forum. See Article.
  • Bollards are often ineffective: a determined person is likely to go around or go through. This may result in additional maintenance costs for the trail, either to repair or replace the bollards, or to repair trail or landscaping damage where vehicles go around the bollards.
  • Bollards are often a hazard to trail users, who can crash into them, possibly resulting in serious injury or death. Poorly installed bollards can lead to head-on collisions. Bollards are involved in "second user" crashes, where the first user hides the bollard until it is too late to avoid it, even if the first user has adequate sight distance. These crashes can produce serious or incapacitating injuries. This can happen to pedestrians as well as bicyclists or other higher speed users.
  • Unjustified bollards can create liability exposure. Trail managers should consider whether or not they increase their liability if they install bollards, gates, fences, or other barriers.
  • Bollards, gates, fences, or other barriers can slow access for emergency response.
But the literature acknowledges that barriers are sometimes needed. What types are better than others? One of the most popular treatments is to split the path entrance into two one-way paths:

They can be designed just wide enough for emergency vehicles to fit through, while appearing too small for cars. If less space is available, the one-way path width can be reduced with low height plantings in the median so that emergency vehicles can drive over the top.

What other treatments have worked well?


Anonymous said...

Although it seems most of you don't like bollards,
sometimes they are really important to have. They can serve multiple purposes! For people interested in more information about them, I'd recommend checking out the Sweets Network from McGraw-Hill, my employer. You'll see, they have many good functions, from vehicle control to decorative lighting. Check it out!

Athol Moore said...

Those deflection rails were recommended in the old Austroads guides as pathway terminal treatments to slow cyclists down to walking speed before they cross a road. They recoend though that they are inappropriate for busy pathways. The new Austroads guidelines recommend the use of a central island and advise against narrowing the path unless absolutely neccessary.