How bollards enhance safety: removable and permanent solutions for protecting people and property

Bollards can make shared spaces safer for everyone.

But enhancing safety is rarely the only objective of a streetscape or hardscape construction project.

Owners and specifiers must also contend with other requirements that influence their decisions from several directions at once. Consider:

  • Maintaining or creating visual appeal is usually a part of a project’s scope in addition to any safety improvements
  • Differing products have differing installation requirements that owners and specifiers should be aware of in advance if they want to avoid costly design changes or timeline overruns later
  • Knowing when a removable bollard vs. a permanent bollard is ideal requires a bird’s-eye view of all aspects of a project, including its surroundings, intended uses and access requirements

So when you’re playing multi-dimensional chess, it pays to understand the ways bollards act more like queens and not at all like pawns.

Black cast iron removable bollards outside the entry to a venue.

3 ways bollards keep people and property safe

It’s worth having a general understanding of how bollards make the world safer. Whether they are removable or permanent-installed, bollards enhance safety in the following ways:

  • Separating vehicle traffic from people on foot or riding bikes when these various modes come into conflict
  • Protecting stationary property such as storefronts, homes, parked cars or other assets against vehicle impact
  • Generally slowing the flow of vehicle traffic when strategically located along roadways, thus reducing the likelihood and severity of collisions

Crash-rated bollards provide a “hard” protection, meaning that they are designed and manufactured to strict criteria that guarantee protective performance. Some bollard types, including many of the cast iron options we manufacture, happen to be strong enough to offer some crash protection even when they are not specifically rated for it. (However, do not substitute a seemingly strong bollard that lacks crash protection ratings when your project circumstances call for a rated product!)

Bollards lacking crash ratings still offer a form of protection that can be very effective. It’s a concept called “visual friction,” where the mere fact that these fixtures are within a driver’s line of sight induces them to slow down and pay closer attention to their surroundings. Learn more about visual friction in this case study.

For more detail on the material and installation considerations for decorative vs. protective bollards, read this bollard specification guide. Now that you know the ways bollards can keep drivers, pedestrians and property safe, it’s a matter of assessing other project circumstances to determine whether permanent-installed or removable bollards are best.

When are permanent-installed bollards ideal?

  1. Permanent bollards are best for spaces that support only a single use. For example, it’s common to see bollards installed beside bus stops or as part of a pedestrian island within an intersection. In either case, there would be no need to remove these fixtures, so a permanent installation makes more sense. It’s also less costly.
  2. Permanent bollards are ideal if there is sufficient alternative access to a space. And what we mean by that is, it is possible that elements within a space where bollards are installed will require access by service vehicles or equipment. Bollards could block their path, but it’s a moot point if there is a different way to access such an area. If there is, you can save money by choosing permanent fixtures instead of removable ones.
  3. Permanent bollards are ideal when project requirements call for a crash-rated barrier. To tease a more detailed discussion later on in this article, if you need crash-rated bollards, it is almost always better for them to be permanent-installed. Removable crash-rated bollards are very rare, and for good reason. Read this if you’re wondering when protective bollards are required.

When are removable bollards ideal? 

  1. Removable bollards are ideal when a space is multi-functional by design. For example, picture a town square or plaza that includes decorative bollards that provide aesthetic interest and define soft boundaries. Now imagine that same space on a weekend, with rows of food trucks or craft vendors. Removable bollards add value to a space by making it easier for it to support a wider variety of uses. Read more about multi-functionality in this case study.
  2. Removable bollards are ideal for controlling access to a space. The space itself may have just one function, but that function may require the free flow of vehicles or equipment at one time and the restriction of movement at another. A use case here might be the loading zones at sporting venues or large conference centers.
An embedded mount into which removable bollards are locked into place.

Can I install safety bollards that are removable?

It’s not uncommon for an owner or specifier to determine that their project requires the unique combination of removable bollards that meet crash-rating criteria.

Can it be done?

Yes, it can, but be warned:

  1. Even before removability enters the equation, any bollard rated to withstand vehicle impact requires more complex below-grade engineering and the involvement of a specialty concrete contractor.
  2. Protective bollards are heavy-duty fixtures. If it is important that your protective bollards can be removed, you need to know that they are far too heavy for people to lift. Consider the extra lifting and hauling equipment you will need to remove and replace them.

Taken together, the two points above demonstrate the very high cost to buy and install removable safety bollards as well as the high ongoing cost associated with their use. And besides, the last thing anyone wants is to pay the premium and only then decide it is too much effort to remove the removable bollards.

Know the difference between retractable bollards and removable bollards

You’ve seen retractable bollards in any number of action thrillers. Picture the underdog protagonist steering a sports car through a controlled entry just in time; their half-wit pursuers slam into big steel posts that rise up from the pavement just in time.

Removable bollards are not connected to any underground motors. To open up access to a space, you pop them out manually. 

As a cast iron foundry, we specialize in manufacturing cast iron and steel removable and permanent bollards. Retractable bollards require added engineering and electronics expertise that falls well outside our wheelhouse. However, BollardsUSA provides patented Twist & Lock removable bollard mounts that make it much easier to remove and replace removable bollards without buying additional complex hardware or specialty tools.

The compelling case for permanent AND removable bollards together

Given what we just said about why removable safety bollards are almost never ideal, owners or specifiers might feel painted into a corner as they consider the fixtures necessary for very unique spaces or circumstances.

They would find as they research bollard manufacturers that only a precious few of us offer the degree of aesthetic and functional flexibility they crave.

BollardsUSA is unique in the market in that our removable and permanent-installed products can be designed to look identical. It’s a perfect compromise for projects where:

  • Some, but not all, bollards must meet crash protection ratings
  • Some, but not all, bollards must be removable to control access or support multiple uses
  • All bollards must maintain the same (or at least a similar) aesthetic look and feel regardless of their function

Wouldn’t it be great to never again sacrifice visual appeal for functionality?

Let’s partner up

BollardsUSA offers superior aesthetic and functional fixtures made of mostly recycled materials from our foundry in Kentucky.

Find the products you need, download specs quickly, and lean on our staff for any guidance you need along the way. We’re here to make this easy on you.

Request a quote here, or dial 1-502-554-1178. A real person answers that phone — how refreshing.