Design and Build Bollards and chicanes

  1. Plan
  2. Design and Build
  3. Sell
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Bollards are perhaps the most controversial piece of cycle infrastructure, a subject of many heated discussions both among designers and users. As a rule of thumb, countries and cities with high levels of cycling and effective enforcement of traffic rules will need less bollards, while beginners might need the cycle paths fully physically protected from illegal use.

To bollard or not to bollard?


Bollards are a safety hazard: cyclist can ride into them if they are not visible enough or the cyclist is not paying attention.

Bollards are especially disruptive for the flow of groups of cyclists, as they require squeezing into a gap, which to be effective against cars needs to be narrower than the width allowing comfortable riding in pairs.  Cyclists in front might obstruct the view on the bollards for those in the back.

Bollards sometimes are ‘lesser evil’ – a necessity to prevent cars from making the cycle path completely unusable by unauthorised parking or driving; this is especially true in case of cycle highways, where cycle paths are wide enough to comfortably drive a car.

Bollards can improve the readability e.g. of a crossing solution by clearly separating different directions.

    How to use bollards?

    If you use bollards, make sure they are well visible in advance. In order to achieve that, bollards:

    • Should be applied only in lit places;
    • Should be retroreflective or have retroreflective elements;
    • May not be placed e.g. behind a curve with obstructed view;
    • Should be clearly indicated with horizontal markings at least 15-20 m before the obstacle;
    • Can be placed on a raised island.

    Typically, one bollard is placed in the middle, and two at both sides of cycle path (unless there is another obstacle, such as a fence, lamppost, etc.) The line of bollards should be placed perpendicular to bicycle traffic. The distance between bollards should not be lower than 1,5 m to allow for a smooth flow of at least one lane of bicycle traffic, and not higher than 1,75 m to be effective in blocking cars.

    New ideas

    • Several administrations experimented with flexible or soft bollards (e.g. rubber or polyurethane) to reduce the damage in case of collision. However, these are also more expensive and prone to vandalism. If they are safe for cyclists, they will not damage a car much, might be forced through and need more frequent replacement.
    • A combination of soft and hard bollards can be created that is both safe for cyclists and car-proof. The soft bollards should be placed from the direction of approaching cyclists, so that cyclists hit them first; after one or several soft bollards a hard bollard is placed to prevent cars from running through. However, this is even more expensive and requires more space.
    • Instead of placing bollards in two places – at the beginning and end of the cycle path that needs to be protected, they can also be placed at one place in the middle, reducing the number of obstacles. This can be effective to prevent cars from using the cycle path as a shortcut, but not from illegal parking. Additionally, bollards at the crossing location might be easier to expect and recognise than somewhere in the middle of the sections.

    Mistakes to avoid – chicanes

    In the same way bollards protect cycle paths from cars, several route managers tried to applied chicanes to stop motorcycles, basing on the fact that typical motorcycle is somewhat larger and more difficult to manoeuvre than typical bicycle.  However, any chicane that physically prevents motorcycles from entering the cycle path, will also pose a serious problem for less proficient cyclists. Cyclists with kid trailers, cargo bikes, handbikes, tricycles etc. will probably be completely unable to use the path.

    As for now, there are no known applications of chicanes that do not reduce significantly the usability of a cycle path.

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