December 9, 2021


There are quite a few traffic bollards near where I live.   They are there because in the past, drivers persisted in using the narrow pavements inappropriately, endangering other road users, and damaging the fabric of the public realm.

For at least one set, the need has disappeared.  Lorries delivering to the school across the road used to go up onto the opposite pavement in order to reverse through the gate.  The school has since moved and widened their gate, making this manoeuvre unnecessary.   The bollards remain, narrowing the pavement even further.

Bollards, like rules, are a last resort.  A physical or legal barrier erected to block behaviours that have proved impossible to prevent by other means.

The trouble with this is that most bollards don’t tell you why they were erected.  They seem arbitrary, so they leave behaviour untouched.

But if you design them with a bit of imagination, they can both block undesirable behaviour in the moment, and change it for the future.

In other words, rules, like bollards, are part of a process, not an event in themselves, and if you treat them that way, you’ll make them more effective.