This article was published in 2017, in Newsletter 132.
I mostly don’t like bollards. You know, those things that obstruct the way ahead on a cycleway. You know, those things that have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to bicycles and hurt many people. You know, those things that are meant to keep cars out of cycleways.
I find it interesting that in the Netherlands, bollards are now the leading cause of injury and death for those riding around on cycles. It is not cars hitting them. Or people riding off cycleways into the ditches at the side and drowning. Nope, it is the humble bollard that is causing the real pain. This means that the Dutch, ever trying to reduce the numbers injured and killed on roads and cycleways and footpaths, are removing as many bollards as possible.
Where car drivers tend not to break the law, they have removed the bollards completely. Where drivers do tend to break the law, they keep the bollards but have replaced solid metal posts with bendy bollards. They also move the bollards to places where you are cycling in a straight line, rather than placing them on a corner. This does mean that they have lovely lines of rather large rocks at the start of cycleways followed by a bollard in the middle of the cycleway, so that they can place the bollard in a straight bit of cycleway.
Oh, and they appear to just have a single design for a bollard.
Now that would be nice. A standard design, a standard set of rules on how to place them for maximum safety, and a standard set of markings to help those following others to know that a bollard is approaching. But we don’t have those. This does mean that we can have more ‘where is this horrible set of bollards’ competitions.
Instead, we just stick solid metal bollards in the middle of junctions, and then to maximise injury cap it off with a sharp bit of metal on the top.
Bollards should prevent people from driving big metal boxes on cycleways. So why have bollards at either end of a cycleway? Or even at the junction of one cycleway and another? It makes no sense to me at all.
Some bollards are useful though. The new cycleways at the north end of Arbury Road are great. The cycleway used to end at a mini-roundabout where the car drivers used to pretend to be riding a bicycle and cut into the space for cycling. A couple of strategically placed bollards has helped tremendously. Oh, and because they are next to a road, they are bendy bollards that give way if you hit them, rather than solid metal bollards that would hurt the cars.
Because, as you know, cars are more important than people, especially people cycling, so bendy bollards are required for cars, and injury-causing solid bollards are considered acceptable for cycleways. Why? Don’t cars have crumple zones? Don’t cars protect the people inside from injury? Bicycles don’t, so surely the design of cycle bollards should be safer and better than car bollards? Yet it is the other way around.
I just wish that the council would remove or replace all the horribly placed and savagely solid bollards with bendy bollards in the right place throughout the city.