Bollard rises and raises hell

My friend Eleanor had her BMW written off the other day – not from a collision with another car or a wall but by an automatic, rising bollard.

In an unfamiliar location and unsure of where she was going, Eleanor followed a bus into the highstreet and soon became acquainted with the town centre restrictions in the worst possible way…

A huge thud was heard as she and her passengers were suddenly jolted to halt. It was clear that she had collided with something but the experience was initially baffling because the collision was caused by something that was previously flush with the road beneath. An automatic bollard had risen while she was driving over it, tearing through the underside of the car.

With the bus she was following obscuring the small and limited signage, Eleanor had a short sharp shock about this town’s traffic calming measure. Only buses taxis, residents, traders and emergency services are allowed to lower the electric posts between 10am and 4pm.

A pool of fluid seeped from her sorry looking Series One and rapidly turned the road dark. The bollard had damaged the bumper, fluid reservoir, radiator and potentially a lot more inside.

This became more apparent when the electrics ceased to work and the car wouldn’t start – it was a write-off. All Eleanor could do was to wait for the recovery truck at the mercy of a bollard that had risen from the ground and raised personal hell.

Eleanor told me that while she was waiting to be rescued scores of local people showed great sympathy and told her that this was a regular occurrence and that visitors to the area often got caught out by the system. A news reporter also came to report on the incident and said that the ‘bollard saga’ was a never ending issue for the town.

The reporter told her that around one car a week was written off by the ‘notorious bollards’ and that there was mounting concern over the huge number of vehicles that continue to get wrecked by the system.

Eleanor’s experience prompted me to do my own research and it is true she really does join a long list of people who have damaged or written off their vehicles by rising bollards, across the country.

A quick internet search reveals many similar stories to Eleanor’s and there are even tales of people who have been seriously injured by incidents with automatic bollards. There are many campaigns, forums and fury about these destructive rising poles.

Of course the bollards are there for a good reason and there are plenty of people who support them. Driver error is blamed for many of the accidents, but this is unfair if signage is poor and the consequences do seem pretty harsh.

It is shocking to discover the complete destruction and injury they can cause, especially as this seems to have been experienced by so many people. This issue should be addressed and surely some of these systems should be reviewed even if just for safety reasons. It does make you wonder why some of these systems do not have sensors to detect vehicles passing over them.

One thing’s for sure, driver awareness needs to be raised because these automatic bollards are becoming more commonly used in the UK to physically enforce traffic restrictions – such as roads open only to buses and taxis.

So, beware of automatic bollards and always be extra vigilant when you are driving in an unfamiliar town.

By Gemma Senington

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