|I took this photo in 2006 near Eindhoven|
Bollards converted a country road into
a cycle-only thorough route. Read more
about country roads
Bollards provide the least expensive way to begin to unravel routes for motor vehicles from those for cycles. Bollards offer one of the simplest and most effective cycling measures. But it must be remembered that there is no single technique which works everywhere. Doing this is a first step applicable in some places but you need to also do all the other effective things to achieve a high cycling modal share.
|Also from 2006, motor through traffic|
calmed in a village, with bike bypass.
During the September 2011 Study Tour, one of the participants, Kevin Hickman, proposed a game. He mused that fifty bollards at around €100 each would not be a very large investment for any city or district but if installed correctly they could result in a substantial improvement for cycling. The "game" proposed is to be played by cycle-campaigners assuming they have fifty bollards at their disposal and working out where they would be best placed to improve conditions for cycling in their area. This is an interesting idea which can lead into positive campaigning and I've been meaning to write about it for nearly two years now, however I held back because I knew bollards are not entirely positive. They are used extensively in the Netherlands, but there are limits and bollards are sometimes unpopular because they can cause problems. More on that later.
|Already old infrastructure in Assen|
in 2007. Direct by bike, not by car.
Cycle-paths are sufficiently attractive that The Netherlands has no need to use physical barriers to prevent cyclists from wanting to use roads, but sometimes bollards are required to prevent drivers from using cycle-facilities or cycle-only through roads as short-cuts.
|Bollard to prevent drivers from using|
a bicycle underpass in Assen
It is not completely unknown, but it is rare that bollards on cycle-paths in the Netherlands cause cyclists to have to slow down. They are used to keep motor vehicles away, not to make cycling inconvenient. The distance between bollards should never be less than one metre. This is required so that cyclists with disabilities can go everywhere that the able bodied can and it results in tricycles, trailers and bicycles heavily laden with bulging panniers being able to pass easily between barriers.
Good Examples from my extensive collection of bollard photos
|Very narrow street in Zwolle. Perhaps a road like this would be considered to have "no room for cycle-paths" elsewhere, but in the Neherlands it's made into a no-go zone for motor vehicles. Black bollards are not ideal.|
|Cars are not to be parked on this grass verge near a school|
|New wide cycle-path in Zwolle. Motorists kept off by bollard also used to divide the two lanes on the cycle-path and to provide a very obvious indication of where the junction is. Bikes have priority at this crossing. This is safe only with careful design. Note how the cycle-path surface is continuous while the road surface is broken.|
|Bridge in new suburb of Assen. Bikes have enhanced permeability over cars, and as a result, cyclists have shorter journeys than drivers. This makes cycling more attractive than driving.|
|Industrial area in Assen. A single bollard motorists from using the cycle-path as a short-cut or making a u-turn in this location.|
|1970s residential area in Assen. Bollards used either side of a crossing between cycle-path and road to prevent drivers using the more direct route available by bike. This is analogous to the example above with the bridge in the new suburb. The same policies have been successfully applied for decades.|
|To get from there to here in this residential area by car involves a considerable detour. Shorter routes make cycling more attractive, whatever your age.|
|Not actually bollards but a good example from Cambridge. A rat-run was eliminated, transforming residential streets to be relatively quiet for their residents and making a good through route by bike. The city needs more of this. I tried to encourage residents of the road where we lived to ask for the same treatment but they preferred being able to drive in both directions over quiet and safety for their children. The use of planters only really makes sense if they will be maintained properly.|
Many bad examples result from misguided attempts to exclude mopeds from cycle-paths. In these cases the cure is very often worse than the disease. "Invisible" bollards or bollards placed so close together that they impede cycling or hidden around a corner so that they provide an unpleasant surprise for cyclists are also not good infrastructure.
|Almost invisible concrete post in the middle of a cycle-path in Eindhoven, probably totally invisible after dark. I took this photo in 2001 so it is very likely that this has been changed.|
|Industrial area in Assen. Bollards used as a traffic calming pinch point to slow large vehicles and provide a bicycle bypass but because they do so by diverting trucks into the space occupied by bikes this could be dangerous. Because it's a non-through route industrial area and there is not much traffic here this is probably not a great problem, but this is not something which would work well on a street with lots of motor vehicles and lots of bicycles.|
|These bollards in Cambridge prevent motorists from using a useful cut-through accessible by bike, but they are also impossible to use with a trailer behind a bicycle. The black paint does nothing to make them more visible at night.|
|Narrow bicycle bridge in Cambridge. After riding downhill and picking up speed, you have to stop and dismount to negotiate these barriers, which may well catch you by surprise because they're not easy to see. First your brakes had better work well, but if you're riding a three wheeler, pulling a trailer or have a disability you'll have problems getting through here under any circumstances. These obstructions perform no useful purpose.|
|Bicycle/foot bridge in Cambridge. After picking up speed downhill, these three bollards are clustered behind a blind corner. Because this bridge is already very narrow, only slightly over 2 m wide in total, such a dangerous obstruction is not required to prevent motorists from using it so it's not clear what problem these three bollards are supposed to solve. Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians is increased because the straightest line possible for a cyclist riding at speed is to use the pedestrian side of the path. Danger of losing control is increased by the British practice of installing textured paving the wrong way around on the cycling side of the path.|
|The other end of the same bridge has the same problem. Another three closely clustered bollards which serve no useful purpose.|
|Excessive bollards in the middle of the cycle-half of a not very wide, not very long and strangely designed path in Cambridge. These help to ensure that motorists have priority at the entrance to a primary school. Schools for children too young to drive cars should not be designed around cars, they should be designed to encourage a high level of independence amongst the children who attend the school.|
|Cycling England was a government (under)funded organisation which promoted cycling in the UK between 2005 and 2011. I wrote about their unfortunate demise. Sadly, CE set their standards far too low. This photo was actually on their website as a "good" example of infrastructure. The "good" aspect of it was that the bollards are offset so that cyclists who wriggle enough can get between the gaps. Very Slowly. This is not nearly good enough. This example has far too many bollards across a narrow path and good cycling infrastructure does not make cyclists slow down and wriggle. Quite apart from how much inconvenience it causes for someone who simply wants to get somewhere by bike, how well does this work with a trailer, for disabled people etc. ?|
|Local newspaper cutting from Assen.|
Bollards are removed in winter to
allow snow ploughs and gritting
vehicles onto the cycle-path. Drivers
are warned that removal of bollards
doesn't mean they can drive on them.
This type of collision is over-represented in injuries to older people. These injuries have risen in recent years along with the rise in cycling amongst older people. Older people may not have such good eyesight and may not see the bollards so easily. When they fall, they are injured more easily. Another group of cyclists who are injured more frequently than average by bollards are faster cyclists who may simply not have enough reaction time if a bollard is not adequately visible due to vegetation or a blind corner.
Dutch bollards are usually painted with red and white stripes which make them reasonably easy to see in daytime, but the small reflectors often fitted don't help all that much at night time. However they are painted, bollards remain quite small objects and it's impossible to make sure that people will always see them.
For several years now the policy in The Netherlands has been to remove or reduce the number of bollards in order to reduce their potential for injury. Where they are still required, experiments are taking place different types of bollards such as the flexible bollards shown in this video:
Note who is shown using the cycle-path. It is normal for racing cyclists to use cycle-paths in The Netherlands because cycle-paths offer the same advantages of shorter distances and better safety for fast cyclists as they do for slow cyclists. In this case, both racers and retired people on electric bikes are shown using the cycle-path with the new bollards, these being the two groups most affected.
|Painted markings to highlight bollards|
on the cycle-path aren't entirely new.
This photo is from the 2006 Study Tour
Now it's your turn
If you were provided with fifty bollards, how could you use them in your location ? Are there residential streets which could better serve their residents and be better for through cycling if rat-running was stopped ? Do you have minor rural roads which need the same treatment ? Do you have places where motorists park their cars and cause problems ? Any bollards to be used should be placed sparingly as creating obstructions for cyclists is not the aim and keep in mind the Dutch experience of how excess or badly placed bollards can easily result in injury.
Also consider what bollards you would like to remove in your location ? Bear in mind that successful bollard usage requires that they are both visible and easy to pass. If you have clusters as shown in some of the bad examples above then the situation would almost certainly be improved by removing most of them.
Arguments that cycling is "too expensive" to provide for do not really hold water. Cycling budgets are small compared with the budgets for other projects (including other transport projects) in every country, including The Netherlands. However the possibility of improving things for cycling relatively little expense is still attractive. It provides a chance for positive campaigning.
The fifty bollard game is a first step
A good first step can be achieved by using bollards and similar techniques to improve permeability for cycling vs. other modes. This is a good thing to do, but I have to emphasize that this is only one of several possible first steps and that having played this "game" the job is not done. Campaigners must not stop at this point because you need all the things that work in the Netherlands in order to get everyone to cycle as in The Netherlands. Campaigners and planners who have low aspirations can never achieve great ends.
See the rest of the steps required
|This blog can only give you an introduction to|
what you need to do. For a greater understanding
Join us on a study tour.
We have been learning about how and why cycling "works" in the Netherlands since last century and we've organised Cycling Infrastructure Study Tours since 2006. Take advantage of our many years of experience to reduce the time it takes for you to learn what you need to do beyond the first steps such as bollards.
We can organise a tour on any date to suit your group. We also organise open tours each year to make the tours affordable for individuals who are not part of a group. Many hundreds of people have already learnt about Dutch cycling infrastructure by coming on our tours, take part yourself in order to find out about the other steps you need to take to transform your home into a place which approaches Dutch levels of liveability.
Kennington People on Bikes wrote about problems due to bollards in London. You still want more ? Try the Bollards of London blog.