Paris Bollard: ode to the bollard as culture generator

Can you fall in love with a Paris Bollard? Perhaps.

In these parts we love bollards as an idiosyncratic typology: when done right they become usefully iconic, when done poorly they stick out of the urban fabric as security-theatre impediment.

Here’s a great article by the Social Life Project called The Little Bollard That Could… Do a Lot about the simple bollard which supports social life in Paris:

Bollards are seemingly simple parts of our public spaces. At the most basic level, they are poles or posts designed to separate and protect pedestrian areas from vehicle traffic. But beyond serving this important safety function, we have seen that these bollards also uphold social life in our communities. In Paris, bollards make the city more walkable and enjoyable.

When done right, bollards can be multifunctional: They separate vehicle traffic from pedestrian activities, while also supporting social life. Bollards are often used as seating, places to lean, and hubs for people-watching. Bollards make space for social life, including spillover effects from dynamic storefronts and cafés. This is especially true on corners and at intersections. Bollards can “nudge” drivers towards better behavior around pedestrians, providing a visual cue to slow down or preventing parking in undesignated areas.

The Little Bollard That Could… Do a Lot

We don’t have a bollard style quite as iconic as the one in Paris (shown above), but we have Protectus bolus as a key player in creating safe streets here in New York City. We’ve been collecting bollard styles from NYC for awhile, and it’s almost time for us to publish the specimen’s entry. But it’s clear: we don’t have a bollard strategy (since we barely have a safe streets strategy). While this might be a small part of the urban fabric, it’s emblematic of the larger failure of both the good people at the NYC DOT (which they are doing pretty well in a pretty difficult environment), the design community who continues to push for new and “innovative” solutions when we should be pushing for simpler set of deployable tools for the streetscape, and ultimately it’s the elected leaders and the unelected Community Board members who wield outsized power over the street; power which comes with almost no responsibility, not being held accountable as day-by-day the streets as designed are doing what they do best: make it dangerous for pedestrians and bike riders, in order to move more cars.

We can do better; we need to make the streets safe for people (not move cars), and to make it easier to ditch your car (and tell Putin to go fuck himself).

Between now and when we hit enter, you all should be following the World Bollard Association™ twitter feed for all things bollard-related – especially all the different vehicles which bollards stop in their tracks (many of which seem to be BMWs).

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