How many bollards is too many?

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paulheckbert
Moderator
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What is the right number, type, and placement of bollards?

This is in the news because of the Halloween truck incident in Manhattan yesterday, in which a crazed person drove a truck onto Hudson River Greenway bike lane starting here https://goo.gl/maps/YCqWbw1jyV72 and drove along it for 1 mile, killing 8 people, mostly cyclists. This article brings up the thought of adding more bollards on that protected bike lane to prevent a recurrence. This wasn’t the first time a cyclist was killed on that bike lane.

I’m interested in the right number, type, and placement of bollards for Pittsburgh.

PROS: If you add more bollards, it helps keep out cars, and if they’re less than 4 feet apart, ATVs. This can protect cyclists and pedestrians from being struck by malicious / drunk / impatient / lost drivers, make bike lanes & trails feel more inviting, and perhaps protect bike/ped bridges from being overloaded and damaged by heavy vehicles.

CONS: If you add too many bollards or chicanes, and they’re rigid, it makes it more likely a cyclist will hit the bollard and get injured. It makes it harder for ambulances to get close, in an emergency.

A few problem cases, in Pittsburgh:

  • Penn Ave bike lane at 6th St. downtown. Before the center bollard (plastic only) was added here, cars would turn into the bike lane. See picture: https://goo.gl/maps/r9iDduGpbyz . Plastic is a deterrent, but it won’t stop a speeding car.
  • 18th St & Southside trail. There’s no bollard here. Do cars turn onto the trail here? See https://goo.gl/maps/skcnDgnmghG2
  • Haysglen St & GAP trail under Glenwood Bridge. There are chicanes here for “liability reasons” that many people (including me) consider annoying & excessive. In October a cyclist biked into a cyclone fence near the bald eagle viewing area and nearly tore his ear off. The ambulance was unable to get close because it couldn’t drive onto the trail here (they lacked a key to the chicane’s lock). See https://flic.kr/p/2147H2M
  • Bottom of ramp at Whitaker Bridge and Port Perry Bridge, on GAP trail near Kennywood. There is a metal bollard to prevent a car from driving onto the latter bridge (which is rated for 6000 lbs, only). Adding more bollards would protect the other bridge & ramp from expensive overload damage, but a few cyclists have hit the existing bollard while speeding down the ramp, with serious injuries.

What’s the right balance? Thoughts?

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Eric
Member
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The Pittsburgh bollards don’t stop cars.  They are all plastic and ibet if I hit one with my Honda Fit I’d have zero damage to the car and one flat bollard.

 

They are a visual deterrent only.


andyc
Member
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I think the bollards at the west end of the eliza furnace trail (by golden triangle bike rental) are a little  too close together. It’s not a big deal on a road bike but it’s a tight fit for my wife on a cruiser bike with a mirror.


mikec
Member
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Has anyone else wrecked into that bollard on the Millvale Pgh border bridge near 3 rivers rowing?


Eric
Member
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zzwergel
Member
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Bollards along the Negley Ave. bike lane would be nice between Baum Blvd. and Rural St. I also think counters on the 300S, 100S, 100N, 300N, and 600N blocks should be set up starting in late February.


paulheckbert
Moderator
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Responding to the New York City incident, one op-ed hails bollards as effective at stopping both terrorists and bad drivers, and recommends more traffic calming:

 

How Safer Streets Can Thwart Terrorists

and BikeSnobNYC says:

Terrorists don’t scare city cyclists. We already have to deal with cars.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Every time I pass those bollards by near the Millvale end of the trail, I think of that experienced cyclist in Ohio who was killed when he hit one of them. I would much rather have tall posts like on the city end of the Jail Trail.


Eric
Member
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The alcosan pickup needs to get through several times a week. Maybe just removing them would be better. After all, they’re not lockable in an upright position anymore.


pinky
Participant
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I have watched a fire truck drive down the Penn Ave bike lane, smashing bollards the entire way through. I have been followed by cars the wrong way up the Penn Ave bike lane as well. I don’t think those work.

The ones on the city side of the jail trail work out well, but they are very narrow for trailers. If those were spaced more widely, I think they would work a lot better.


Benzo
Participant
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Yeah, I hate those super tall bollards on the jail trail, I have really wide jones H-bar handlebars and really have to watch myself.


Steven
Participant
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I have been followed by cars the wrong way up the Penn Ave bike lane as well. I don’t think those work.

Yes, they don’t work, if “work” means to entirely prevent such misbehavior. But they might still be effective at reducing it.

Does fire/EMS require bollards on a street like Penn that they can mow down if necessary when there’s an emergency and they need to get through? If so, solid metal bollards as on the the jail trail wouldn’t even be a possibility for Penn.


Eric
Member
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I think the plastic choice is a cost thing. Probably crazy cheap.


Ahlir
Participant
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search “flexible bollards”. There’s many such products, and they would make more sense for streets like Penn.


paulheckbert
Moderator
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Flexible, plastic bollards are what we’ve got on Penn. I’d say they’re working pretty well. When they’re hit so many times that they don’t spring back up, though, they need to be replaced promptly or they stop working (they no longer keep cars out and they can also become a worse hazard for cyclists). We need to notify Pittsburgh 311 in those cases.

There was a good article on the same topic as this thread (pros and cons of bollards) in New York magazine. For a change, most readers’ comments weren’t horrible. Some people mentioned the risk of injury on a rigid bollard.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/how-nyc-could-have-protected-those-cyclists-and-pedestrians.html


fultonco
Member
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I’m for enough of the steel bollards to keep motorized vehicles off trails.  I know that is not a popular viewpoint among my fellow cyclists but the world we live in today has too many people intent upon doing harm to others.  Yes, I’ve seen all of the statistics but I also don’t want to become one of them.  I too have wide handlebars and have to be careful going through some high and close gates or bollards.  But, isn’t that the point?  These are recreational trails, not TDF training grounds.  If you want to train for the Tour, ride the roads and hills.  If someone hits one of these structures, I have empathy but do not consider that a good enough reason to stop protecting everyone else.  Plastic posts keep the honest people honest.  But anyone having a bad day should not be so easily able to access the trails.  We have Bicycle Police. Perhaps Bicycle EMS are needed to get an injured person to the nearest access point, where a vehicle could be waiting.


Mikhail
Member
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If you want to train for the Tour, ride the roads and hills.

I don’t like this logic because it separates racers from bicycle movement. Why would they care about other cyclists in this case? Any effort all out leads to oxygen deprivation and you want to be safe environment. At some point Stevo explained here why he uses the Jail Trail in early hours going well beyond 35 mph.

 


fultonco
Member
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My point was, Exercise Physiology aside, if we have to remove all of the gates and bollards to minimize the chance that speeding cyclists might hurt themselves, then perhaps they should ride fast somewhere besides a recreational trail.  I think the safety of many ought to take precedence.  Your friend sounds like he is at least considerate enough to train early.  If others want to do so, they should follow suit and deal with the gates and bollards that protect the rest of us.

  • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  fultonco.

dfiler
Member
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Was anyone actually in favor of removing ALL gates and bollards? That seems like a strawman argument.

There are different options and Pittsburgh is rather inexperienced with this type of infrastructure. In my opinion, we’ve yet to develop a knack for appropriate placement of gates and bollards as well as signs that impinge on sidewalks or bike trails. For example, the jail trail bollards seem too close together. They could be further apart and still prevent cars and trucks from passing.

Also, this topic might be easier to reconcile by acknowledging a few things. The first is that these aren’t just “recreational” trails. Just like regular roads, they are also used for going to work, going out to eat, exercising (not necessarily recreation), etc. But most importantly, cars on separated cycle paths are about the least important thing to consider when designing bike infrastructure. Thousands of times more pedestrians and cyclists are killed by accidental crashes on regular roads. Bollards and gates don’t have to be too aggressive to stop frequent access.

It is impossible to prove, but the statistics do suggest that narrow bollard spacing  such as on the jail trail, are responsible for more deaths than psycho people who intentionally driving down trails with a car or truck.

(Edited post because I had confused/combined a few of the participant’s points in this thread) :)


paulheckbert
Moderator
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I think the psychological effect of bollards is even more important than the physical effect. Yes, a good steel bollard will stop a carelessly-driven or maliciously-driven car and keep it out of a bike lane, but more significantly, a bollard (whether steel or concrete or plastic) makes cyclists feel like they have a protected space, and causes almost all car drivers to steer away and to slow a bit.

I’ve been surprised by how successful the Penn Ave bike lane has been; how much of an improvement it is over what we had before. It makes the idea of biking (at least on Penn Ave) much more inviting to the average Jane and Joe.


Ahlir
Participant
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There’s probably better designs for on-trail bollards. For example, the following triangular arrangement widens the space between bollards and should be easier to navigate, provided you slow down and do a couple of turns.


A car has a much longer wheelbase and wider turning radius. It would not be able to negotiate the turns. In any case, I expect that somewhere in the world this problem has been solved. We just need to dig it up. Wait, doesn’t the city have a Bicycle Coordinator part of whose job is figuring this stuff out?


fultonco
Member
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“Was anyone actually in favor of removing ALL gates and bollards? That seems like a strawman argument.”

Not a “strawman argument.”  Some bollards and gates have already been removed on the Montour Trail, the North Shore Trail, and perhaps others.  Additionally, there are those who, while not having come forward in this thread, have done so in others and do support the idea of removing them.  I’m not against the idea of re-designing these barriers for increased safety but I am against completely removing them or replacing them solely with flexible alternatives.

Some comments were made here and elsewhere about statistics, terrorists, and motor vehicles not being a big problem to worry about.  I couldn’t disagree more.  I’ve been involved with trails here in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 30 years.  Back before we ever considered the threat posed by foreign and domestic terror, gates were put up a key points to keep motor vehicles from accidentally or purposefully wandering onto a trail where defenseless pedestrians and bicyclists might be injured.  Heavy motor vehicles also cause damage to trail surfaces, many of which are not designed to accommodate the weight of the vehicle or power of their spinning wheels.  This damage must then be repaired by trail organizations who are not usually operating with the same budget that a city might have.

To say that there are more injuries due to collisions with trial barriers than there are with motor vehicle incidents on trails is probably true because until recently, there were gates and barriers on trails keeping the vehicles out.  Now that they are being removed we’ll have to wait and see what the statistics of the next 5-10 years might show.  Terrorism, while thankfully rare, can easily take more people in one short incident than occur by collisions over a long period of time.  I vote for minimizing the potentials both types of events.

I will agree these are multi-use trails and not solely for recreation.  This is a shared resource, the use of which involves personal responsibility, consideration of others, and some compromise on the part of all users.  That means not expecting trails be tailored for some of us to go very fast, without impediment or to be able to operate carelessly without any repercussion.  If some of the existing barriers are considered to be sub-optimally designed at this time, that is all the more reason to exercise care and pay attention when approaching them.  This will be necessary until they can be replaced with a better design.

If looking for solutions to problems, they should be complete.  All aspects of a problem should be considered and every attempt should be made not to create new problems by leaving trails unprotected.  The article to which was referred in the first post of this thread recognizes that following the recent incident in New York, the idea of better protection for trails is being considered there.  I hope we here in  Pittsburgh can be proactive and not have to react to a terrible tragedy.


The Iguana
Participant
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Eric
Member
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Of course no one would do this, but maybe someone could solve the North shore bridge bollard issue with a socket wrench and some elbow grease. Not that I’m suggesting anything.


fultonco
Member
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From the article above,

“The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) warns against installing bollards on trails unless there is a specific need for them. If bollards are absolutely necessary—at intersections where car traffic might cross the trail, for example—AASHTO recommends that they be clearly marked and reflective.”

You could add, tall enough and properly maintained to the recommendation.


zzwergel
Member
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My street in Aspinwall gets an unreasonable amount of through traffic. I think there should be bollards at mid-block locations along all of the alleys as well as a one-way reversal on 5th St. between Western Ave. and Eastern Ave so the whole street goes west. The direction on 1st St. should be reversed so that traffic on 1st St. must turn onto Center Ave. Essentially use one-way streets and mid-block bollards to let pedestrians and cyclists through, but require motorists to stay on Freeport Rd. for as long as possible en route to there home on a side street. Traffic calming should be implemented along Freeport Rd. as well because it has already claimed the lives of several pedestrians and transit users.

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