Bollards gone Bonkers

The Prime/Police Minister and Premier pronounced it and then it was so, overnight a new forest of bollards appeared in Melbourne under the guises of protecting the public, but they’re little more than security theatre.

Originally added on Bourke Street in response to the tragic incident there where a vehicle was used as a weapon to run down pedestrians (which the state government has stressed was not terrorism) the protective blocks extend across the full width of the footpaths as assurance that no vehicles can enter the area.

concrete blocks across footpath

Just over 800mm across the blocks are roughly evenly spaced apart but lacking in places the absolute minimum 1200mm clear width required for accessibility by people in wheelchairs. But this knee jerk response looks a little foolish when you look at the wider context in which they are placed.

clear tramway through shared space

The full width of the tram thoroughfare is completely open allowing vehicles to freely enter the pedestrian area and continue onto the footpath, its built like a shared area without kerbs to allow free flow of pedestrians across the tram tracks but the trams don’t give way like in a true shared space. This was a little joke until the recent dumping of another round of bollards about town.

Now they are scattered in more locations across the city including this shared space of Queensbridge Square which was the site of the councils efforts to improve sharing. Arranged in three banks to form a u shape… wait for it…

for vehicles to drive through

Well done there adding bollards which although slowing the entrance of a vehicle, do nothing to stop it entering the area. The businesses and events along this section of the river use the shared space extensively for deliveries and transport so without an alternative the space remains open to all but with the addition of huge blocks to reduce the usable space further.

Outside of peak times the traffic through these areas has no problems and continues to flow smoothly, but breaking up the space into discrete passages with these dimensions will reduce the pedestrian capacity by more than a factor of two and the narrow 1100mm-1300mm gaps fail to recognise the bicycle route through here that the Australian guides would require a minimum opening width of 1400mm. There are precious few vehicles that would be blocked by a 1400mm opening that wouldn’t be blocked by a 1600mm or even 1800mm opening, as previously discussed and illustrated with this image of the average car against an 1800mm opening.

bicycles and car trying to fit between bollards

But this is coming from a council who don’t see a problem with unregistered golf carts driving down shared paths. To top it off these newer (albeit promised to be temporary) bollards are placed far back from the road (and bicycle lane to which they would present a hazard) so the pedestrians waiting at the crossing lights are now in additional danger with heavy obstacles to pin them between any wayward cars.


These new blocks adding to the already heavily cluttered paths are not even aligned with the existing bollards. But of course that special sacred cow of transport could never possibly be inconvenienced for its dangers, its politically easier to inconvenience the pedestrians instead.


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