Have you walked by a footpath parking blackspot, like around a school? Have you tried to walk along with kids or a buggy while people drive up and off the footpath? The phenomenon can be temporary around schools. It can be more permanent with residents parking on footpaths. It can be pronounced where co-renting levels are high, such as in Annacotty outside of Limerick city.
Controversial: Bollards Can Protect You
These bollards below are being used to protect an electrical box from people parking their cars:
Bollards can also protect you. This is a controversial statement. Urban designers and safe-street advocates rightfully dislike bollards. They are a big problem for people with visual impairments. You can walk into one and bang off it.
However, bollards can be a tool. In Mayorstone, in Limerick, we have two bollards, one on each side of the road at a ramp, because people used to drive up onto the footpath to avoid the brunt of the ramps.
Footpaths being the realm of parkers does not have to be the way. Bollards are one way to physically protect your space on the footpath. They are used all over the place already to protect things. We can also use them to protect our people, if the context might call for it.
A tiny bollard experiment
For two weeks in September 2019, I stood on my footpath, asking fellow parents of our local school not to park on the footpath. For the first couple of days, we also laid out little sports cones (until a parent threatened to trip over them):
The cones themselves helped (along with the social pressure of asking people face to fact):
Looking up the other way, you can see the footpath is clear for walking to school:
One of my learnings from those couple of weeks is that you don’t need many bollards. The key areas are where the kerb drops down for driveways (in a residential area).
For reference, this is the more normal parking on the footpath on this street:
And even worse, here’s a whole class from another school walking past the car of a school picker upper who is blocking the footpath on Shelbourne Road:
Back in Mayorstone, Garda traffic cones are placed out for big rugby matches, with traffic cones being the temporary experimental version of bollards:
Bollards Protecting Limerick
I kept an eye out for bollards around Limerick. We have a real diversity!
Bollards protecting things
These bollards are used to protect a bank from reversing cash vans (successfully enough, by the look of it):
We have bollards protecting shared bikes parked on-street:
And more bike parking protection on O’Connell Street:
Bollards protecting walkers at road corners
We have bollards protecting from shortcuts at this corner:
And around the corner, another type of bollard protecting the corner of the footpath:
And more corners being protected by other bollards:
Bollards keeping entrances clear
We have bollards protecting the footpath from parking at Limerick College for Further Education:
We have bollards on William Street to prevent parking at a gateway entrance:
Those bollards above are interesting. You only need two of them at a gateway, to stop people using the dropped kerb as an easy way to drive up on the footpath.
The entrance of this warehouse is protected with these old bollards below. I wonder if they’re used to help guide reversing trucks:
Bollards restricting access
We have bollards protecting the pedestrian bridge at the Locke Quay, I suppose from motor traffic:
We have bollards protecting the canal walk and cycle way from motor vehicles (Limerick Council proposed building a road across this canal at this location in 2019):
Big one: Bollards keeping footpaths clear from parking
We have bollards protecting the footpath around pubs on Denmark Street (and traffic cones where they are missing):
Up the road we have bollards protecting the footpath at Mother Macs:
We have bollards protecting the footpath from parking on Anne Street, Limerick:
These utilitarian bollards are protecting from footpath parking, again near Limerick College of Further Education off Mulgrave street:
We have bollards protecting the footpath by the Milk Market. I’m not sure what this bollard in front of the car is for. Is it to stop people parking up against the kerb? If so, it’s inconsistent at least:
On a related note, there was another bollard on O’Connell Street with a drink:
We have bollards protecting the footpath outside the church at Pery Square (are these slanted tops “anti-litter bollards”??):
And we have bollards on O’Connell Street to protect the wide path from people parking:
We have bollards protecting walkers outside the Savoy Hotel:
This bollard is keeping the footpath clear for walkers at Upper William Street (isn’t this splash of personality a nice change?):
Bollards protecting walking space on pedestrian streets
As I’ve said, bollards are also great places to leave your drink, but they also protect pedestrian space on the normally-pedestrian Bedford Row:
This is the same street from a different angle, which means there’s space for people to walk:
Little Catherine Street, another pedestrian street, has bollards to maintain foot space:
As a side-note, this is Cruises Street, another pedestrian street, that does NOT have bollards to protect walking space:
I unfortunately lost the reference to the Dutch and bollards. It may have been in Modacity’s Building the Cycling City book. The point was that the Dutch made extensive use of bollards to protect footpaths from parking. After a generation, people had learned that a footpath is not the place to drive up onto, and bollards started to be removed again.
A Painful Tool?
There you have it. Limerick’s bollards are utilitarian at best. The newest chrome designs are more fragile and are showing a lot of dents.
You can walk into bollards, even if you have full use of your eyesight. As Ailis Ní Chofaigh shared on Twitter, she walked into a bollard as she didn’t see it while her baby was in her sling. I saw a baby being carried in a sling along bollards that same week:
Bollards are one tool in the toolbelt. They might be useful in highly-problematic areas (such as directly around a school). The pain of their use may be worth it, with the benefit being that kids and others can walk on the footpath without negotiating with people driving up and off the footpath for parking. In my own case, I see them as part of a solution to free the footpaths ag Gaelscoil Sáirséal.
P.S. We can make the case for enforcement of road traffic law, where it is not permitted in Ireland to park fully or partially on a footpath. Enforcement would be part of the solution, if the Gardaí felt inspired to encourage behavioural change. That is currently not the reality in Ireland, so local use of bollards may be another solution in the meantime.