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Screenshot of a video where they are featured in the background: enter image description here

They appear to have no electronics built in, such as an electric charge station, or a parking ticket dispenser or something like that.

They appear to just be large, solid metal poles that are roughly placed with one per parking space in front of the store.

Are they a safety measure? So that nobody can drive like a madman into the store? Is that really so common as to have them waste all that money on "safety poles" everywhere?

Are they meant for bicycles to lean against them? For people to hang out in that area? Resting against them? Are they purely ornamental? Are they considered aesthetically pleasing?

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    $\begingroup$ These bollards in literally every country on Earth. Also popular, say, next to petrol pumps. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Mar 25 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ They can be used aesthetically. Target usually has large red spheres serving the same purpose. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Mar 25 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ If it's 2 for $3.33, how much is 1? $\endgroup$ – RockPaperLizard Mar 26 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ Illuminati Obelisks for poor people. $\endgroup$ – William Hird Mar 26 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ You guessed it. They are there to prevent drivers from driving into the store, deliberately or not. You can also find them at gas stations and near truck loading zones among other places. $\endgroup$ – dalearn Mar 26 at 14:46
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They are called bollards.

Their function is to provide safety for pedestrians from traffic, distracted drivers who may encroach into the sidewalk, or runaway cars e.g a driver who inadvertently leaves his/her car in neutral without the emergency brake set.

Many municipalities require them and have codes and specifications defining their dimensions and strength.

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    $\begingroup$ could have sworn there are a remedy of the cowboy-era ^^ so you have a place to bind your horse while shopping ;-) $\endgroup$ – eagle275 Mar 25 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ @user91988 They are aren't particularly unique to the US. I'm not sure if they're even much of a good indicator that a country has money. It shows they have enough money that some people have cars; but it's not like it would be that expensive to build the bollards. $\endgroup$ – JMac Mar 25 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ They can be incredibly strong: giphy.com/gifs/whoa-truck-bollard-j0HCppaqMcM3C $\endgroup$ – minnmass Mar 25 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ @minnmass Wow. I don't know how many years it took, but thanks to you, now I've finally seen how that video ends. $\endgroup$ – JiK Mar 27 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ CAn you cite anything supporting their presence for defending the entrance against a car running into it? In my experience they are there simply to prevent people from parking in spots they aren' t supposed to, because people are lazy and will think they can just park for five minutes directly in front of the store. $\endgroup$ – Frank Hopkins Mar 27 at 15:50
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They are called Bollards. But these aren't defensive as suggested.

Look closer. There's no curb.

This is a new style of store (from the architecture) and curbs have been eliminated for ADA reasons (benefit of wheelchairs).

As such, there is literally nothing to prevent a car from drifting forward and hitting the building; it's not even clear where you should stop the nose of your car. There's clearly intended to be a sidewalk there, but lots of people will simply pull right up and block the sidewalk. I see it all the time, and often have to walk around the offending car. Hence, the bollards.

The benefit (ADA-wise) is that wheelchair users and other limited-ability people are not confined to using the "handicap spaces" - and can park anywhere and directly access the sidewalk. This is consistent with US "ADA 2.0" doctrine that people in wheelchairs should be able to use the same route as everyone else.

These bollards are not a fortification.

Keep in mind, OP's example is an ordinary convenience store. It lacks any particular national importance; it's not a gathering point for tens of people let alone thousands. Ram-raiders are not an issue here, since that is to penetrate locked doors in empty stores, and these stores are open 24x7.

Here's how you can tell. There are clearly marked parking spaces, and the bollards are set on the center-line of the parking space. The design really depends on cars at least making some attempt to park inside the lines.

Bare minimum width of a parking space is 8.5 feet (2600mm), because you need at least 24" (600mm) width to open the car door. Well the bollards are typically <12" (300mm)wide, and these look like 6" trade size pipe (168.3mm). That means with the standard "guard a curbless sidewalk" bollards, you can easily drive a car between them.

So, completely worthless as a fortification.

When you look at bollards as fortifications, there's less than 5 feet (1500mm) between them. Further, this 6" pipe wouldn't do - even filled with concrete, it's just too flimsy.




* ADA 2.0 isn't really a thing, I just made that up as a slang way to talk about it. What is true is that there was a major shift in ADA doctrine, as they discovered that (gosh) wheelchair users rarely travel alone - and often travel with others in wheelchairs, and that tends to overwhelm limited accommodations like lifts tacked onto stairs.

  • Initially, ADA was to provide access at all. Abled people could climb the magnificent steps, and wheelchair users go around the back of the (older) building by the dumpsters and people shooting up, and push a buzzer and wait 5 minutes to have a guard escort them through the non-public areas, and it's 15 minutes before they actually catch up with their friends.
  • The new doctrine is that wheelchair users are equals. You're not allowed to build the grand staircase, and you cannot create barriers that would send wheelchair users on a different path. Curbless construction is consistent with the new doctrine.
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    $\begingroup$ Please note that the ADA does not only help create equality for people in wheelchairs. It's for all disabilities. These particular changes also help people who depend on walkers, canes, scooters, or crutches, as well as people who have motor impairments or difficulty lifting their legs as high as others. Whether or not they help or hurt people who are blind or have limited vision is open for discussion. $\endgroup$ – RockPaperLizard Mar 26 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ looke closer thiese is a curb., it stats behind the puddle $\endgroup$ – Jasen Mar 28 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Jasen Yeah I saw that, but it's anomalous. It doesn't go all the way across to the left. It looks like some sort of portable ramp $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ The "puddle" and "ramp" can be alternatively seen as the windscreen and bonnet/boot of a parked motor vehicle. (-: $\endgroup$ – JdeBP Mar 28 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ completely false assertion that it is not defensive. see my answer below. $\endgroup$ – likejudo Mar 28 at 13:45
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Bollards and other defensive oriented structures significantly predate the 2016 Nice attacks. They have been in place at the construction of many buildings in the US and across the world for decades including government and multi-national corporation buildings. You probably just never noticed them.

It is my opinion that you see more of the type above due to the rising prevalence of reckless and distracted driving. The kind of bollard shown above will stop cars and small trucks as long as they are not traveling at a significant rate of speed.

enter image description here

NYC Federal Reserve

enter image description here

IBM Armonk

enter image description here

Herbert Hoover Building Washington DC

enter image description here

Arc de Triomphe

Many other methods are used as well including fences with raised stone or concrete bases and berms or trenches depending on the available terrain.

Protect Buildings from Vehicle Attacks [2012]

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for showing this is not just a US-specific concept $\endgroup$ – Woodrow Barlow Mar 27 at 13:44
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They are to prevent "smash and rob". A situation where someone steals a vehicle and drives through a store front to rob the store. Usually an accomplice drives a second vehicle to escape.

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    $\begingroup$ And just check youtube for cases of robbery or bad drivers hitting the wrong pedal... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Mar 25 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ The main value of the car smashing through is to gain physical access. But that doesn't make much sense in OP's application, which is a convenience store that is open 24x7. A more likely reason is they no longer have curbs for benefit of wheelchairs, yet they need a way to keep honest cars from accidentally hitting the nicely finished (and expensive to repair) building, or God help you, the rack of propane tanks.... $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 25 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ They see far more use against accidental crashes than against deliberate ones. Checking my local police blotter, I see nearly two dozen vehicle-versus-store crashes since the start of the year, and not one of them has an accompanying theft. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 26 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ I guess I watch too much security camera footage on TV. But it is funny to see "smash and grab" robbers smash into a convenience store and try to pick up a cash machine as if it were a chair ( they are well anchored into concrete). $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Mar 28 at 15:20
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For safety. They are to protect whatever is behind them from cars. They're very strong and will stop or slow down a car that would otherwise cause a lot of damage or risk to life.

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Bollards in Switzerland have been placed to prevent and hinder drivers from parking vehicles with 2 wheels on the pavement or to stop them from parking their cars in front of shops.

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Other answers have covered a lot of the original use cases but nowadays terrorism is one of the big reasons why you see them being put up just about everywhere. According to this article, the more study ones are designed to stop a loaded truck up to 80 mph: https://www.sdmmag.com/articles/97143-anti-terrorism-bollard-manufacturer-helps-secure-2-iconic-us-locations

I don't know for certain but I believe the Nice, France terror attack was a huge driver in their proliferation.

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  • $\begingroup$ High speed vehicles being used as rams goes back to the first mechanization (horses would refuse). And America went nuts with bollards and zigzags approaching guard shacks right after 9/11 and in some cases well before. The Federal Reserve has always been kings of that. I can tell you Target's round bollards are fairly new. But pre-2016. $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 25 at 21:16
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At Sprint, the telecom company's headquarters in Overland Park, KS when they built their billion $$$ campus in 2001, the CEOs and Executive building had a separate entrance and these bollards. It was expressly there to prevent truck and car bombs.

For those who only think of 9/11, remember the truck bombing by Iran in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980s which killed 241 US marines and soldiers.

Never Forget.

Marine sentries initially paid little attention to the Mercedes truck. Heavy vehicles were a common sight at the airport, and in fact the BLT was expecting one that day with a water delivery. The truck circled the parking lot, then picked up speed as it traveled parallel to a line of concertina wire protecting the south end of the Marine compound. Suddenly, the vehicle veered left, plowed through the 5-foot-high wire barrier and rumbled between two guard posts.

By then it was obvious the driver of the truck—a bearded man with black hair—had hostile intentions, but there was no way to stop him. The Marines were operating under peacetime rules of engagement, and their weapons were not loaded. Lance Corporal Eddie DiFranco, manning the sentry post on the driver’s side of the truck, soon guessed the driver’s horrifying purpose. “He looked right at me…smiled, that’s it,” DiFranco later recalled. “Soon as I saw [the truck] over here, I knew what was going to happen.” By the time he managed to slap a magazine into his M16 and chamber a round, the truck had roared through an open vehicle gate, rumbled past a long steel pipe barrier, threaded between two other pipes and was closing on the BLT barracks.

Sergeant of the guard Stephen Russell was alone at his sandbag-and-plywood post at the front of the building but facing inside. Hearing a revving engine, he turned to see the Mercedes truck barreling straight toward him. He instinctively bolted through the lobby toward the building’s rear entrance, repeatedly yelling, “Hit the deck! Hit the deck!” It was futile gesture, given that nearly everyone was still asleep. As Russell dashed out the rear entrance, he looked over his shoulder and saw the truck slam through his post, smash through the entrance and come to a halt in the midst of the lobby. After an ominous pause of a second or two, the truck erupted in a massive explosion—so powerful that it lifted the building in the air, shearing off its steel-reinforced concrete support columns (each 15 feet in circumference) and collapsing the structure. Crushed to death within the resulting mountain of rubble were 241 U.S. military personnel—

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  • $\begingroup$ You have a datapoint of knowledge use of those bollards at Sprint's Overland Park, KS headquarters. Since you mention this on my answer, I'm disappointed that you conclude that all bollards everywhere are for that same purpose; they're not. OP has a plain convenience store. Anyway as I discussed, these bollards out of 6" pipe are far too weak for defense. I don't downvote lightly, and besides, you get full marks for being the first to mention Beirut, IMO the true origin of the defensive bollard trend. Net score +1. $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 28 at 18:55

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