Common Cone

Providing safe access

Protectus conus


Traffic Cones – often called pylons, orange cones, safety cones, or just cones – are cone-shaped markers used for a variety of temporary purposes,  generally to channel people and cars, or mark dangerous items.


Conical shape with flat bottom, generally orange with reflective strip.


Primarily found on the street, but often found on the sidewalk.


Throughout the five boroughs.



Just like the close cousin Protectus dolium (Construction Drum/Orange Barrels) the P. conus is everywhere – be it next to a construction site, or in a pothole, P. dolium is another workhorse in safety protection.

What I find most humorous, is that at some point these cones almost act as common property: it’s fairly common to see ConEd cones used by film shoots to reserve parking spaces, or MTA cones being used by bodega owners to guard open sidewalk hatches.

Traffic cones were invented by American Charles D. Scanlon, while working as a painter for the City of Los Angeles. He holds US Patent US2333273A.

There are standard sizes found throughout the US, generally regulated by state and federal law. These sizes are:

  • 12 in (305 mm), 1.5 lb (0.68 kg) – for indoor/outdoor applications
  • 18 in (457 mm), 3 lb (1.4 kg) – for outdoor applications such as free-way line painting
  • 28 in (711 mm), 7 lb (3.2 kg), (also called Metro cones for their use in cities) – for Non-highway applications e.g. Local street,
  • 28 in (711 mm), 10 lb (4.5 kg) – for free-way/high-way applications (With reflective stripes)
  • 36 in (914 mm), 10 lb (4.5 kg) – for free-way/high-way applications (With reflective stripes)

Climate impacts

The Common Cone is generally made of thermoplastic 1usually PVC, sometimes recycled PVCs, or rubber, it takes 350.17 MJ 277.20 MJ/kg x 4.53kg of energy to produce one 36” tall injection moulded PVC cone, releasing 14.97 kilograms of CO2 33.30 kgCO2e/kg x 4.53kg in the process. 4Taken from Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE)

The use and wear of the common cone is hard to quantify with precision. According to manufacturer data, the average lifespan of common cones are two to three years. However, these cones often do not last more than one year as many are stolen or wear out. 5According to manufacturer data Cuttill estimates that at least 6 million cones a year are sold throughout the United States. 

So taking these numbers with some grains of salt, we can calculate the climate impact of the common cone. The total annual estimated energy expenditure to manufacture these cones (assuming each are 36” tall) is 2,101,038,144 MJ 6350.17 MJ x 6,000,000, releasing 89,820,000kgCO2e 714.97 kg x 6,000,000. To put this in perspective, that amount of carbon release is equivalent to:

This isn’t even accounting for the miles of asphalt and concrete (either new or repair) which the common cone is designed to protect us from. 

Further reading

See more

Subscribe to Field Notes via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Field Notes and Specimens Pages, to receive them by email.

Recent Entries