Bollard: Non-Crash and Non-Attack-Resistant Models  



This Resource Page focuses on bollards that are not resistant to vehicle crashes. A companion Resource Page, The Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models, focuses on crash- and attack-resistant bollards. Despite numerous similarities in outward appearance, the two styles represent radically different cultures.

Non-crash-resistant bollards are "perceived impediments to access." Theirs is the "culture of civility," addressing the actions of two categories of drivers:

  1. Persons who are law-abiding and comply with civil prescriptions of orderly behavior as defined by the manner in which bollards are put to use; and

  2. Others who border on or are potentially threatening and disrupting. For these, bollard applications are proscriptive by notifying intruders their behavior is anticipated and additional levels of security await them.

This second category potentially or, in fact, represents a "culture of destruction, terrorism, and death." This culture is addressed in the Resource Page, The Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models. These are hardened barrier systems used to protect military and governmental buildings and structures of higher security levels. (See UFC/ISC Security Criteria Overview and Comparison; Cost Impact of the ISC Security Design Criteria; Threat/Vulnerability Assessments and Risk Analysis.)

Numerous domestic facilities use one or the other or both in tandem of the two bollard styles depending on application of the ISC Security Design Criteria, based on a project-specific risk assessment that encompasses threat, vulnerability, and consequences. Examples include:


History and Styles


Bollards, as functional street furniture, began with the Romans who constructed milestone markers, horse troughs, and tethering posts made of wood or stone. They later were used to protect pedestrians and buildings from horse-drawn vehicles. Bollards have long been used as short vertical posts for mooring boats and ships to docks. Our interest is in the variety of structures to control or direct road traffic.

retractable bollards along a pavered street
stainless steel bollards

Retractable bollards and stainless steel bollards

Construction, Styles, and Applications

single stainless steel bollard secured in gravel in park

Urban park fixed bollard in Battery Park City, NYC

Bollards enjoy considerable variety as to their construction (cast iron, stainless steel, steel/cast iron composite, recycled plastic, plastic covers) and functional design (fixed, telescoping, removable, collapsible, and collapsible/concealable), of which more is presented below).

Surpassing in variety the diverse construction and design functions of bollards are the many settings in which bollards are used. The American Bar Association (monograph cited among references) lists 25 sites where bollards contribute to homeland security. Other uses include community services, diverse building types, parks, trails and trailheads, traffic ways, and restricted roadways. In addition are other open spaces for which bollards are specified:

  • Playgrounds
  • Sports Fields
  • Landscapes
  • Bus Em/Debarkation
  • Traffic Medians
  • Fire Lanes
  • Mall Entrances
  • Store Fronts
  • Pathways
  • Toll Booths
  • Site Perimeters
  • Building Setbacks
  • Utilities Islands
  • Utilities Shelters
  • Bicycle Lanes
  • Intersections
  • Highway Access Lanes
  • Building Shell Hardening

A Performance-Based Bollard Design Decision Model

Variations among the aforementioned construction, styles, and applications of bollards are too many to warrant recommending bollard selection based on mere whim or fancy. Performance-based design, however, elevates bollard selection to a more deliberate level. Performance-based design in recent years has entered building science. Its evidence is seen in the gradual shift away from prescriptive codes to proscriptive codes and standards whose applications and outcomes are measureable. This section—unique in the literature on bollards—describes a process model for arriving at a measurable performance-based bollard design.

Later sections develop how bollards are used in four specific market applications. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Safety and Security
  • Concentric Circles of Protection
  • Crime Protection Through Environmental Design
  • Traffic Calming

We have chosen "Safety and Security," as it is applied to restricted fire lanes, to illustrate how the model is developed. The philosophical basis for this discussion is well-known in the scientific research community as "formal theory construction," which depends on the foundational requirement for conceptual clarity.

Generic Definitions of Safety and Security in Behalf of Bollard Selections

Consensus on definitions at both the conceptual and operational (i.e., empirical/measureable) levels is essential. Without consensus security plans can be inconsistent, arbitrary, and wasteful. Consensus is a major goal of stakeholders participating in the common charrette.

A review of the literature referencing safety and security reveals the two terms often are used inconsistently, interchangeably and, consequently, inappropriately. This gives rise to confusion. For complex projects involving multidisciplinary teams, we are dealing with system concerns. Then the absence of clear situation-specific definitions of each safety and security, leads to ambiguity that works its way throughout the entire system. This applies even to the choice of bollards—simple though they may be.

Generic definitions are like skeletons, which provide the frame for derived situation-specific definitions that, in turn, can lead to performance-based design decisions.

Generic Definition of "Safety"

Safety involves whatever contributes to maintaining the "steady state" of a social and physical structure or place in terms of whatever it is intended to do. Safety connotes stability over time, continuity of function, and reliability of structure.

Generic Definition of "Security"

Security is the process or means of delaying, preventing, and otherwise protecting against external or internal dangers, loss, criminals, and other individuals or actions that threaten to weaken, hinder, or destroy an organization's or site's "steady state," and otherwise deprive it of its intended purpose for being.

Definitions Applied to Fire Lane Safety and Security

Image of the front of Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, National Harbor, MD with white bollards along brick path between stone pillars and hotel in background

Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD

The generic definitions are applicable to any situation involving safety and security. But each situation's content will differ.

The content of a "steady state" changes from one situation to another. It can be operationally defined in terms of regulatory codes and standards, performance data, an organization's vision and mission statements, personnel policies, or operations manuals. The situation-specific "steady state" therefore is the basis for what constitutes safety and, consequently, the content of security is specifically directed toward that steady state.

In the case of a fire access lane, safety is defined as an unobstructed lane of code-specific length and width, having apparatus-weight-bearable surface, with a readily available water supply, and unimpeded access to a building threatened by fire. These qualities are referenced in both IFC 2009 and NFPA 1-2009. In addition, NFPA 1710 addresses fire apparatus response time from fire station to the inflamed building but makes only casual mention of "setup" time (approximately two minutes) that takes place within the fire lane itself.

In order to set up, bollards must be dismantled to allow apparatus entry, but the literature is lacking on how long or how much effort it takes to dismantle the bollard barriers—a performance measure addressed below. The reason the time factor is so important is that it takes only about ten minutes from time of ignition to flashover. And while two minutes are allocated for set up, not all elements involved in set up, including bollard disassembly, have been articulated metrically.

Fire lane security first and foremost involves a bollard barrier that prevents non-first responders from entering the fire lane and has signage warning non-first responders to not obstruct the area in front of the barrier. Obviously, a permanently fixed bollard would provide ultimate security, but it prevents apparatus entry. What is necessary is the selection of a bollard that honors safety by meeting the performance measures of security.

When choosing bollards to block the entrance to a protected fire access roadway, both safety and security are concerns. Fire protection engineers, architects, fire marshals or other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), contractors, and clients all have a stake in bollard selection. All are stakeholders.

Stakeholders must collaborate to achieve performance-based design solutions. Performance and design derive from the situation-specific definition of safety. The definition of security derives from how we have defined safety. The latter is corollary to the former. Design specification, in other words, is a function of security wedded to safety.

The right design expedites easy bypass of the bollard barrier in order to set-up and commence mitigation. Also, the right design expedites a quicker return to safety conditions following mitigation and return of barriers to their role in protecting the entrance to the access roadway. (Five common market-available bollard designs used to address safety and security appear below.)

The foregoing discussion is summarized in the following figure:

Outline for choosing a bollard: Identify Specific Setting for Safety/Security Design Decision, Design Safety = The Situational Steady State, Determine Operational Definition of Safety, Operational Definition of Security, Operational Definitions of Safety & Security Considered in Tandem, Performance-Based Design Decisions

Choosing the Bollard

Greater design demands have been placed on bollard manufacturers to satisfy all stakeholders. Prominent among the design issues is the need to balance and optimize both safety and security needs. This issue is expressed in two fire-lane-related principles:

  • The quicker first responders gain access beyond a bollard barrier the sooner fire mitigation begins.
  • The quicker bollards are returned to their original erect position following mitigation, the sooner security is reinstated.

These principles address a time-related design issue. Both removable and collapsible bollards have been used in recent years as barriers to fire access roadways. There are five market-available designs that address the two principles, but with different degrees of efficiency.

The following artist's renditions show in ascending order of efficiency how the principles are met. That is, each of the five styles, based on in-the-field trials, require different amounts of time—from more to less—to dismantle and allow apparatus and crews to enter the fire lane.

What results here is that:

A performance-based measure pertaining to bollards is tied to a performance-based measure of apparatus set up time! In a word, the faster set up is accomplished, the faster water is applied before possible flashover. Performance-based bollard design is ultimately tied to saving lives and property!

Style 1: Padlocked Removable; 60–75 seconds to remove

  • Single fireman exits apparatus
  • Goes to key box
  • With master key opens box and retrieves padlock key
  • Bends over, unlocks and removes three padlocks
  • Removes bollards from their bases
  • Sets bollards aside
  • Fireman returns to apparatus
two blue removable bollards, one standing on black base with padlock on bottom and one laying down with black base and open padlock next to it


Style 2: Hydrant Wrench Removable; 50–60 seconds to remove

  • Single fireman exits apparatus with hydrant wrench
  • Fits, turns wrench and unlocks three bollards
  • Removes bollards from their bases
  • Sets bollards aside
  • Fireman returns to apparatus
two blue hydrant wrench removable bollards, one standing on black base with wrench laying beside it and one laying down with black bottom and wrensh next to it


Style 3: Padlocked Collapsible; 30-–5 seconds to collapse and pass over

  • Single fireman exits apparatus
  • Goes to key box
  • With master key opens box and retrieves padlock key
  • Bends over, unlocks, and collapses three bollards in place
  • Fireman returns to apparatus
two orange padlocked collapsible bollards, one padlocked and standing on black base and one folded down on black base with open padlock and tool next to it


Style 4: Hydrant Wrench Collapsible; 20 seconds to remove and pass over

  • Single fireman exits apparatus with hydrant wrench
  • Fits, turns wrench, unlocks, and collapses three bollards in place
  • Fireman returns to apparatus
two orange hydrant wrench collapsible bollards, one locked and standing on black base with wrench next to it and one folded down on black base with tool next to it


Style 5: Collapsible by Apparatus Bumper Force; 5 seconds to collapse and pass over

  • Apparatus impacts bollards simultaneously
  • Collapses bollards (sheers retention inserts-replaceable following event)
  • Bollards remain in place
three collapsible by apparatus bumper force bollards with a fire truck about to knock into them
three collapsible by apparatus bumper force bollards with a fire truck knocking into them

Discussion on Bollard Styles

The padlocked design assumes that all first responders have a readily-accessible key to the lock box and that padlocks work under all conditions, E.g., rust and debris can make locks in-operable, and climatic conditions (rain, sand, dust, snow, mud) could make it difficult to find the locks. Failing a working lock, the only alternative is a bolt cutter, and this is a lengthy two-person job. Bollards using the fire hydrant wrench have an advantage, since all first responders carry the wrench as standard equipment. The collapsible bumper-force design responds to any first responder's slow deliberate bumper force, whether it is from the fire apparatus or an EMS or law enforcement vehicle. This bollard's breakaway design is capable of an easy on-site repair following emergency conditions. In the final analysis, the issue has to do with meeting the performance-based design requirements derived from how safety and security are defined.

Safety and Security

Educational settings are an apt setting for bollard use for safety and security. In the most general sense, bollards provide visual access to school grounds, increase a sense of ownership and territoriality for occupants, and control access to buildings and grounds by individuals and vehicles. However, in practice, the use of bollards is much more widespread.

Image of Lasell College in Newton, MA with three yellow bollards at the entrance

Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts

In the United States, there are over 17,000-school districts and in excess of 120,000 K-12 schools. In addition, there are well over 4,000 colleges and universities. The membership of the Committee of Architects for Education of The American Institute of Architects numbers in excess of 8,000. The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF), managed by the National Institute of Building Sciences has made a major investment to promote safe schools and four-year colleges and universities. NCEF has compiled the largest bibliographical listing of publications, case studies, conference and governmental proceedings, legislative mandates, and assessment checklists on school safety. Indeed, educational facilities comprise a major industry for safety and security, which is why they are considered here.

The University of Connecticut, on page 12 of its Division 2 Master Plan describes its use of bollards:

Bollards should be used in areas where a clear delineation between vehicular traffic and pedestrians is desired such as at the mouth of major pedestrian walkways where they empty onto streets. Bollards restrict vehicular movements while providing for unimpeded pedestrian circulation.

  1. Two types of bollards-traditional and contemporary-are needed.
  2. They must be attached solidly to the ground, yet removable.
  3. All bollards must reinforce master plan recommendations for vehicular access and pedestrian circulation.
  4. All bollards should be constructed with mountings to allow removal.
  5. Bollards should be spaced eight feet apart.

Anyone venturing into planning and designing for bollard use at educational facilities should use two of NCEF's assessment checklists that are bollard-relevant. The Outdoor Athletic Facilities and Playgrounds  checklist addresses

  • Natural Surveillance
  • Boundaries and Setbacks
  • Separation from Vehicular Traffic.

The School Grounds and Site Access Control checklist  covers a broader spectrum of areas for which there are nearly thirty bollard applications among which are:

  • Site Surveillance
  • Site Territoriality-Maintenance
  • Site Access Control
  • School Surroundings
  • High Risk Sites
  • Landscaping
  • Traffic Circulation
  • School Bus Areas
  • Parent Pick-Up
  • Public Transportation
  • Vehicle Parking
  • Site Utilities

Concentric Circles of Protection

Concentric circles of protection (CCP, also referred to as "intervention" or "buffer zones") involve bollards and are part of a whole system approach to site preparation. The U.S. General Services Administration advocates a six-zone protection system inclusive of perimeter buffer zones, where security begins at the site perimeter and gradually moves to the interior of a building. (The GSA design is addressed again in the Emerging Issues section.)

Bollards define traffic entrances to a site and as removable barriers at alternative entrances. Perimeter design gradually directs vehicles along an indirect (circular, convoluted) route toward the inner areas of a campus to prevent straight-on traffic directed toward buildings. For buildings bordering a roadway, permanent/fixed-in-place concrete-filled bollards aligned in a row adjacent to the building to protect (harden) its outer shell.

The concentric circles can extend to the innermost areas of a campus, providing setback distances and clear zones protecting building and walkway entrances, pedestrian parks, utilities enclosures, fire hydrants, loading zones, parking lot pay stations, or highly sensitive scientific laboratories.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

The National Crime Prevention Institute advocates that, "the proper design and effective use of built-in environmental factors lead to the reduction in fear and incidence of crime and an improvement of the quality of life." This is the fundamental concept behind CPTED. (See Emerging Issues section on use of CPTED in connection with the GSA perimeter zone design.)

CPTED provides guidance in designing crime prevention strategies to provide for a clear border or boundary to define controlled space. These are achieved physically or symbolically to achieve security zones, using shrubbery, fences, signs, distance, open or uneven terrain, or clear line of sight for natural surveillance.

Territorial reinforcement secured through CPTED often involves bollards in the landscape design.

Traffic Calming

The goal of traffic calming is to reduce vehicle speeds, improve safety, and enhance quality of life. Most applications, which include bollards among a variety of options, focus on engineering measures (as opposed to education and enforcement) that compel drivers to slow down. In this sense traffic calming differs from the use of barriers to divert traffic as discussed in the foregoing discussions. Bollards are used for two types of calming. Volume control measures address cut-through traffic problems by blocking certain movements. Speed control changes vertical or horizontal alignment or narrowing the roadway. (See Emerging Issues section where code changes will impact traffic calming designs currently in use.)

Bollard applications in conjunction with traffic intersections, speed bumps, and sharp turning radii were used to prepare for the Republican Convention in New York City. Israel's Traffic Research Institute reduced accidents by placing bollards at highway exit gore areas in order to control traffic streams.

Case Study

An exceptional case study involves New York City's use of bollards.

Design Objectives

The foregoing discussions show that the bollard is one of the most versatile components in comprehensive integrated design planning and design execution. The bollard also exhibits qualities applicable to each of WBDG's Design Objectives—rendering it, as shown here, a tool worthy of more than casual consideration.

This section links to each of the eight Design Objectives and follows this with bollard-specific vignettes appropriate to each Objective.


The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) led to Standards for Accessible Design and discussions thereon led subsequently to potential conflicts between tenets of the Act and bollard-specific issues such as safe/secure and the impact on access and aesthetics. The potential for conflict often divides on whether it is a federal or a non-federal facility in question, such as in discussions about walking trails and bicycle paths. Such discussions seek to resolve conflicts between the restriction of access for security reasons and the removable of barriers to allow access.

man on a bicycle moving away from three bollards along the American River Trail in Redding, CA
Entry to of Rancho San Rafael in Reno, Nevada with a single white bollard in the center of the roadway

American River Trail in Redding, California

Rancho San Rafael in Reno, Nevada

ADA also enters the discussion when building egress points that exit onto a fire access road and wheelchair users can be expected to traverse the bollards fronting the access road. The spacing of bollards should have a minimum clear distance between them of at least 3 feet in order to meet the requirements of the ADA but no more than 5 feet to respond to the minimum width of a vehicle.

Aesthetics—Versatility / Historic Preservation—Respect

The breadth of design styles of bollards renders them easy candidates to complement a broad spectrum of building architectural and landscaping designs. While some applications use an unfinished steel or cast iron bollard right out of the box that requires refinishing in several years, others choose powder-coated models or those that on special order enjoy up to five dozen weather-resistant colored finishes (which speaks to the issue of cost-effectiveness; see below).

Prudent aesthetic choice of bollards in connection with historic preservation plays several functions: they introduce visitors entering a site to a style that complements the main building; through traffic calming, so that visitors are asked to approach a building with a sense of reverence for times past; they play a part in protective landscaping setbacks and parking space design; and they provide, finally, a respectful portal through which visitors ascend to the main entrance.

Cost-Effective—Low Life-Cycle Costing

single yellow permanent dome-type bollard

Permanent dome-type bollard

Cost-effectiveness occurs at both the intrinsic and extrinsic levels. Extrinsic considerations are discussed below in the section on Functional-Operational.

Intrinsic considerations apply to the bollard itself. The choice of design dictates how cost effective the bollard is. Permanently sunk concrete filled iron bollards have utility until new site development, building renovation or expansion requires that the bollard be removed—always with difficulty. Removable or collapsible stainless steel bollards easily yield to the owner's needs and retain their handsome appearance. Weather resistant coatings that are factory applied circumvent the need for maintenance crews to remove rust and apply new coats of paint.


City of Stirling, Western Australia in 2002 conducted a cost benefit analysis comparing Tanolith Pine post and rail barriers with dome-type bollards for use as barriers around all reserves in the city—a $2.5 million investment. The following points summarize why bollards were selected:

  • Capital costs for bollards and rails were similar
  • Maintenance costs for rails were markedly higher
  • Replacement frequency for posts and rails is higher
  • Bollards provide less access restriction for walkers and prams
  • Bollards provide better visual access to reserves
  • Post and rail fencing is a higher trip risk in poor light conditions
  • Bollards provide for easier grass maintenance

FEMA in 2003 conducted a cost-benefit analysis of 43 strategies to provide safety to school campuses (see FEMA 428, page 2–29). These were arranged on an ordinal scale progressing from "less protection / less cost / less effort" strategies on the lower end of the scale to "greater protection / greater cost / greater effort" strategies at the upper end of the scale. Of the 43 strategies, seven could be met with the use of bollards. Despite the fact that bollard cost remains relatively constant from one application to another, three of the higher cost quartiles included two bollard strategies each, and the least cost quartile had one bollard application. The conclusion is that costly high demand strategies can be met with low cost bollards.

The National Clearing House for Educational Facilities in 2008 published "Low-Cost Security Measures for School Facilities based on NCEF Assessment Guides. Either directly or by implication bollards are acceptable low cost measures.

Productive—Sentinel of Well-Being

Extrinsic life cycle costing plays a functional-operational role: how well does the bollard do its job and thereby prevent costly consequences had the bollard otherwise failed in its purpose. The questions we ask in our evaluations follow the use of bollards for concentric circles of protection, CPTED, safety and security, and traffic calming: Did it work or not; is the bollard worthy of continued use?

Functional-Operational and Productive considerations also apply at the behavioral and psycho-logical levels. Do bollards, as part of site design and consistency with the aesthetics of the pre-vailing architecture, contribute to a sense of well-being?

Safe / Secure—Maintaining the Steady State

The bollard in its modern form, while retaining all its historical contributions to safety and security (see section above on Performance-Based Design), has leapt ahead to full membership status in integrated whole building design (WBD) considerations. WBD, in fact, is to be credited with having elevated the bollard from the status of a design appendage to a full member in good standing.

Sustainable—Optimizing Environmental Integrity

Bollards play a key role in optimizing the use-potential of a site and limiting harm to operational and maintenance practices. They remind daily users of the overall integrity that a building and its environs portray. They warn potentially errant intruders that their intentions have been anticipated even during initial design planning. Bollards, standing in pairs or as long lines of sentinels are integral players in sustainable design.

residential neighborhood with bollards lining the entry to a central courtyard


In some situations, however, safety, security and sustainability must be balanced. The use of bollards, reinforced planters and site furnishings to withstand assaults by moving vehicles can result in undesirable increased development of open space, habitat disturbance, and possibly erosion. (See, e.g., one of the nation's most admired sustainability efforts—the University City District in Philadelphia: Glenn Rosenberg, "Sustainable Security," College Planning and Management, April 2009.)

Emerging Issues

Congress for New Urbanism

Representatives of the International Code Council and the Congress for New Urbanism late in 2009 approved for comment a performance-based guidance that would prohibit traffic calming devices—inclusive of bollards—as "design elements of fire apparatus access roads "unless approved by the local fire code official. Early in 2010, ICC's Joint Fire Service Review Committee approved the code change for inclusion in IFC 2012. While this change might expedite traffic flow contiguous to strip mall fire lanes without threatening effective fire crew responses, it raises serious questions about and threat to the traditional exclusivity of the area fronting the entrance of fire lanes dedicated to high rise buildings.

Wildland Urban Interface

The National Wildland Urban Interface Counsel was formed in mid-2010 to address the national concern over wildland fires contiguous to urban areas that impact 70,000 communities, 46 million homes, and 120 million people across America. Many of the more than 1000 National Recreation Trails that are heavy users of bollards are located in the wildland urban interface. Representatives of the national organization—American Trails—have the opportunity to address the potential expanded role of bollards in preventing wildland urban interface fires.

GSA Site Security Across Two Cultures

Approved in 2007, the General Services Administration's six-perimeter zone security plan is planned for use with 2000 buildings across America. The outermost zone will be a 360 degree area encompassing civilian/domestic neighborhoods inclusive of the infrastructure normally found in a full-bore community. To the extent the eight parameters of WBDG's Design Objectives play a role in designing both the GSA projects and the civilian zone, the possibility exists for unintended consequences to negatively impact the civilian sector relative to bollard and other security infrastructure use. In complex urban systems, particularly those encompassing demographic diversity, unintended consequences are frequent occurrences of planned change. To the extent GSA's security design has the potential for negatively impacting the domestic neighborhood encompassed by Zone 1, then planners versed in CPTED will have a major challenge in ameliorating the appearance of an "armed camp" fraught with bollards and other evidences of physical security.

WBD Guidance, Multiple Stakeholders, and Charrettes

The use of bollards, when analyzed from the perspective of Whole Building Design, has the potential of involving more stakeholders of diverse backgrounds than under past planning efforts. And to the extent that performance-based design is involved in the planning and bollard-selection process, the stakeholders will be required to possess greater analytical abilities. The charrette, therefore, will become a more technical deliberative process.

Relevant Codes and Standards

Attack and Crash Resistant Bollards

Fire Codes

Safety and Security

Concentric Circles of Protection/Intervention Zones

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Multidisciplinary Teams

Traffic Calming

Bollards, Trails, and Accessibility

Additional Resources