How Do I Choose the Right Bollard? Bollard Types, Uses and More

Jenny Kleiner Bollards

Today’s roads and parking lots are more complicated than they’ve ever been. A strict set of rules governs the general flow of traffic, but that doesn’t mean people always follow them. How often have we found ourselves driving into someplace from the wrong direction, or entering a place where cars shouldn’t be at all? Sometimes, these rules and directions just aren’t marked as clearly as they could be, and it can be all too easy to miss the instructions entirely.

That’s where an access control and safety device like a bollard can be helpful. A bollard is a short post that’s embedded in a sidewalk, parking lot, street, or other similar surfaces. The purpose of a bollard is to form a protective barrier and prevent cars from driving where they shouldn’t.

It might seem like there’s not a lot to learn about bollards, but that’s not true. Bollards come in a wide range of types and varieties, all of which have specific uses and offer unique benefits. With so many options, it can be difficult to tell which is best for your purposes.

It’s important to know which type of bollard best suits your needs and purposes. To help you figure that out, we’ve put together a quick guide on the different types of bollards available and their intended uses and benefits.

Types of Bollards

1. Fixed Bollards

You might also hear this type of bollard referred to as embedded, or permanent. This variety of bollard is characterized by the way it’s embedded securely into the ground or the concrete where it’s installed. This embedding typically gives the bollard a little extra strength and security.


Fixed bollards are constructed out of the same types of materials as other bollards, such as concrete, steel or occasionally wood. However, no matter what material this bollard is, it will only be as stable as the ground it’s embedded in. For example, a steel post buried in concrete will be much stronger than a wooden post that’s only embedded in sand. The difference in material also influences whether the bollard is actually a safety device or for decorative purposes.

This type of bollard is a practical solution when there is a permanent layout and there is no need to vary access. With greater embedment depths, fixed bollards are not always suitable for parking decks or garages with suspended slab floors as they may weaken the foundational structure.  If you’re considering a surface like a parking lot or access drive, this type of bollard may be the simplest, most cost-effective choice.

2. Automatic Bollards

This type of bollard is also known as a rising or telescopic bollard. These are retractable bollards that can rise out of the ground to block traffic or withdraw back into the ground to allow traffic to pass. With most able to extend to their full height in a matter of seconds, they’re an efficient, flexible way to manage traffic and keep pedestrians safe.

Automatic bollards can be controlled pneumatically, hydraulically, or electrically.  This selection is often dependent on site-specific applications and uses.  These bollards are constructed out of carbon steel or stainless steel and are usually available in a variety of different finishes.  Automatic bollards are permanently installed below grade and require regular maintenance.

Primary Uses for Automatic Bollards

These are ideal for situations where the flow of traffic will be varying, and entry and exit might change at a moment’s notice. One example of a practical application for automatic bollards might be a parking garage or parking lot. They’re also perfect for use at the entrance to museums, zoos or other public facilities where admittance is restricted after a certain hour.

3. Decorative Bollards

Decorative bollards are designed to add aesthetic appeal to a sidewalk or building front. They can still be used to guide traffic and mark areas that should not be accessed by vehicles. However, decorative bollards aren’t intended for heavy-duty use and are not designed to stop cars or other vehicles. Because of this, decorative bollards are perfect for places where aesthetic is key and where heavy-impact bollards are not required.

Because decorative bollards aren’t usually as durable as a typical fixed bollard, they’re highly customizable. They can be made from a wide variety of materials such as iron or aluminum and can be designed in almost any architectural style. They can be built to fit the style of a 100-year-old mansion or a modern office building. There’s no limit to what these bollards can look like.

An architect or engineer can place these bollards anywhere they feel they will add aesthetic value and also meet safety requirements of a project. A decorative bollard might be placed along curbs, in front of buildings or along walkways to help guide pedestrians.  Decorative bollards may also be used as a sleeve to go over a safety or security grade bollard.  With decorative bollards more than any other type of bollard, there’s a high level of flexibility.

4. Lighted Bollards

Lighted bollards perform a variety of functions and can come in several styles. They can be retractable or fixed, and they can be embedded or surface mounted. The uniting feature of these types of bollards is that they’re all equipped with lights, which adds a great safety and aesthetic element.

They are most commonly made from aluminum or stainless steel, though other options are available.  The light source itself may vary in color and intensity, allowing architects options when creating a certain design aesthetic. Design styles for lighted bollards can be more basic and utilitarian, or they can be more detailed and decorative.

Common Uses for Lighted Bollards

Some common uses for lighted bollards are in landscaping, such as to help guide pedestrians along a path. They might also be used in courtyards, plazas or along streetscapes. They can be used anyplace that’s likely to experience a fair amount of traffic after dark, and where extra light would be helpful.


5. Manual Bollards

These are very similar to automatic bollards. In the same way as automatic bollards, manual bollards can retract into the ground to allow access to a space that is sometimes restricted. The difference between manual and automatic bollards, however, is the way in which this retraction is performed.

In the case of the automatic bollards, this retraction is mechanized, operating via a hydraulic, pneumatic, or electric method. A security guard, parking lot attendant or other individual presses a button or a remote to operate them. In the case of manual bollards, this process needs to be done by hand.  There are both assisted and non-assisted models available depending on the size and weight of the manual bollard.

Manual bollards typically come in stainless steel or carbon steel, and with a variety of options for finishes, so you can customize the look you want. Because manual bollards require more of a process to retract, we recommend using these for basic access control applications and situations where the need to restrict traffic doesn’t change on a very frequent basis or the need for remote operation is not necessary.

6. Removable Bollards

Removable bollards operate by the same basic principle as retractable bollards, where access needs to be granted sometimes and denied other times. They come in an assortment of materials and finishes, so you can customize it to match the surrounding area where it’s being installed.

These types of bollards are usually secured in place by a locking device, which can then be taken away to remove the entire bollard. Locking options include padlockable or internal locking.  Padlockable removable bollards are often used in more industrial settings.  Internal locking bollards allow the user to lock and unlock the bollard without having to reach down to the base of the bollard.  This provides both a streamline aesthetic as well as a more functional design in conditions where snow or other matter may collect at the base and inhibit padlock use.  There’s a high level of flexibility with these removable bollards, and they come in a range of different styles. This includes options for variation in the bollard itself, as well as the bollard head.

As in the case of the automatic and manual bollard, these removable bollards are appropriate for situations where access needs to be occasionally denied or granted, but not all the time. Examples might be government facilities and public buildings, parking garages, city streets, and other restricted access areas.

Common Industry Uses of Bollards

Based on all these different types of bollards, it’s easy to see how useful bollards can be and how varied their applications can be across numerous venues. The use of bollards isn’t limited to one industry or application. There are so many uses that it would be impossible to talk about them all here. Instead, we’re just going to highlight a few of the most popular industries that make practical use of bollards:

1. Government Uses for Bollards

Government buildings are an excellent place to install bollards. There are numerous ways that government contractors typically do this. Bollards could be used in their standard application, to provide guides around public walkways where you do not want vehicle access, such as areas around the National monuments in Washington, D.C.

From museums to public parks, government-owned areas also commonly use retractable bollards. In addition to allowing access only during specified times, contractors can strategically use bollards to help deter theft or other break-ins and meet the government-required level of security. Lighted bollards could also be placed around the grounds or sidewalks to provide extra light and further deter theft or vandalism by keeping areas well-lit at night.

2. Bollards on Education & University Campuses

Educational buildings often need bollards to protect students and pedestrians in areas where vehicles also require some access. Schools and universities are high-traffic areas where it’s critical that the traffic operates correctly, since there are so many pedestrians milling around the vicinity. With students driving around, school buses trying to maneuver and parents waiting to pick up their children, there are many areas where bollards can improve safety.

In this setting, bollards should be used to mark the edges of the parking lot. They should also be placed at the edges of walkways, to ensure no one accidentally drives up onto the sidewalk or walkway and hits a student. By installing bollards in strategic locations, drivers will have a better idea of where the vehicles are not permitted and will be less likely to drive in the wrong places and potentially endanger students or staff.

3. Why Businesses Need Bollards

In addition to businesses using bollards in their standard landscaping and sidewalk applications, they can also use them to provide extra light around the premises at night. This might be particularly important if the business is in a somewhat isolated location without a lot of light from neighboring businesses.


Businesses also might find it helpful to block off certain areas using bollards. For example, if trucks always come in to deliver shipments to one area of the parking lot, but cars are typically blocking this area, it might be helpful to use bollards to block this off so drivers can’t access it. Since shipments typically come at designated times, removable or retractable bollards are a great option in this case, since access must only be restricted during certain times.

4. Bollards at Restaurants and Storefronts

Restaurants can use bollards on the sidewalks around their building to ensure cars don’t accidentally drive up onto the sidewalk, or worse yet accidentally drive into their restaurant building. When designing the layout of the building and parking lot, architects can use bollards to mark off the drive-through lane. Additionally, restaurants that offer outdoor seating areas would benefit from the use of bollards to enhance safety for their customers and also add a nice aesthetic to their outdoor atmosphere.

Storefronts such as those in strip malls, are highly susceptible to accidental or intentional incidents where cars crash into buildings, or worse, into pedestrians.  These areas typically have nose-in parking with little room for error.  Bollards create both a functional and aesthetic barrier to protect pedestrians both on the sidewalk and within a store.  Signage may be integrated into the bollard design to communicate information, or designate parking spots such as ADA.

Bollard Crash Ratings

Bollards may be crash-tested and subsequently rated using one of the four most common standards. These standards are designed so the buyer can be informed about the level of protection the bollard they’re buying will offer. Depending on the area you are installing a bollard and the safety requirements for your project, it is important to ensure that the bollard you purchase will adhere to necessary crash rating standards.

The four rating standards are:

  1. Department of State. The DOS no longer provides ratings, but the system is still in use. In this system, bollards receive “K” ratings that refer to the impact speed a bollard can handle. For example, a K4 certification means the bollard can withstand a crash at 30 mph, while a K12 can handle 50 mph.
  1. Department of Defense. This rating standard refers to the level of penetration experienced by the vehicle upon the test crash. This rating is referred to with the letter “L.” For example, an L3 rating means the penetration was less than 3 inches. So, a rating of K4L3 would indicate a 30 mph crash only caused 3 inches or less of penetration.
  1. ASTM F 2656-07. This rating is an industry standard that measures statistics about the vehicle that was used to test the bollards. The vehicle is assigned a letter based on what type of vehicle it is, and a number to indicate how fast the vehicle was traveling.
  1. BSI PAS 68:2010. This rating is essentially the British version of the ASTM rating and operates similarly.

While all these rating systems and safety standards may seem confusing and unnecessary, their importance should not be overlooked. Bollards save lives, and to do that, they need to be tested to determine how much protection they offer.

Over the course of one single day, it’s estimated that vehicles crash into stores, restaurants and other buildings an average of sixty times. In 2013, these types of accidents caused the deaths of 500 people in the United States and injured 4,000 more. Bollards could have helped to prevent many of these incidents.

Why Choose Blockaides to Purchase Bollards?

No matter what industry you belong to or what type of facility you’re looking to install a bollard in, Blockaides has both the experience and the product offering to provide the best solution for your project. We offer an assortment of different types of bollards, as well as a variety of materials and finishes. We also offer caps and other accessories so you can customize your bollards to fit your unique needs.

If you’re still unsure about which types of bollards are best for your property needs and applications, we’re available to help. Our team of safety and security professionals has extensive experience working with automatic bollards, decorative bollards and everything in between. We can evaluate your property and its functional and aesthetic requirements to determine your needs. We’ll work with you to recommend the right solution for your unique situation.

We also back every product we sell with superior service and support. We partner with architects, project managers, contractors and property owners to ensure every project meets our customers’ specifications. We’ll guide you through the entire process from beginning to end, including assessing the risks that impact your property and which types of bollards can provide the most reliable results. Once you’ve made your product selection, we’ll manage your installation project from start to finish.

Learn More About the Different Types of Bollards and Their Uses

Blockaides has been helping businesses, organizations and individuals meet their safety and security needs for more than a decade. We’re proud to do the same for you. Trust our team to provide high-quality products, exceptional service and thought leadership that will protect your property and the people that use it every day.


Whatever type of bollard you choose, you can rest assured that our high-quality, American-made products will help promote safety, security, and even aesthetics at your site. Contact us online or give us a call at (909) 217-3412 to get more information or request a custom quote.