Bollards on Retail Storefronts Expert Article

Vehicle crashes into retail walkways and storefronts represent a potential hazard for pedestrians. The interplay between vehicles and pedestrians brings inherent risks that should be addressed by architects and engineers. There are many potential design considerations available to mitigate the risk of these incidents.

In this article, we focus specifically on the use of bollards to provide a visual and physical barrier between driving zones and storefronts or walkways.

Retail Storefront Premises Liability Expert

What is a Bollard?

Bollards are safety devices intended to provide protection for buildings, pedestrians, walkways, utility installations, and other areas from reasonably anticipated vehicular forces or other potentially damaging traffic by way of enhanced visibility and/or physical guarding.

The most typical bollard is a concrete-filled metal pipe installed vertically at ground level, but they are available in a variety of sizes, materials, and finishes to suit the requirements of different environments and intended uses.

Design Considerations for Pedestrian Safety

Parking spaces near a storefront, particularly those positioned perpendicular to or angled toward the storefront, may increase the likelihood that driver error will result in vehicle encroachment into pedestrian walkways or the building itself. Another common design factor that increases risk is parking lot aisles with unimpeded travel paths toward the retail storefront. We will see examples of all these design features in our case example.

The height, location, stand-off distance, structural capacity, and spacing between bollards should be determined by their intended use, design requirements, and site-specific conditions.

Pedestrian safety within the parking area is an equally important topic and has been covered by experts from our Highway Engineering group.

Case Example – Vehicle Crashed through Storefront

This case involves a driver who lost control of their vehicle, crashed through the storefront, and injured at least one patron within the retail store.

The fact pattern from this case represents a combination of factors that created an unreasonably dangerous condition for pedestrians in and around this retail establishment. The subject parking lot included driving aisles and parking spaces with a perpendicular orientation toward the storefront. In this instance, the driving aisle aligned almost perfectly with an ADA Access Aisle (§502.3) with curb cut-outs, leading directly toward the glass storefront.

Vehicle Crashed through Storefront - Expert Diagram

There had originally been bollards in front of the store and other storefronts in the same shopping center, reinforcing the fact that the property owners knew or should have known the potential risk for incidents of this type.

Findings from our investigation identified that the unprotected façade was dangerous and the property owners’ failure to maintain the once-existing bollards or install another effective form of boundary control created a dangerous condition.

Curbs & Wheelstops Provide Minimal Protection

Wheelstops typically do not prevent vehicular intrusions. They cannot be used in accessible access aisles or in front of ramps and are a tripping hazard. Wheelstops are typically no more than six inches tall. Likewise, a six-inch curb, the standard curb height between a sidewalk and street or parking lot, is not an effective barrier. Both are only effective as a “feeler” for a driver pulling into a parking space and in control of the vehicle.

Common installation techniques include bolting the bollard at its base or direct embedment of the bollard below grade in a concrete footing. The level of desired protection, soil parameters, and costs are important factors when deciding on bollard materials and configurations. Whether the bollards are being used as warning members or designed as part of a vehicle barrier system will also impact the selection and design of the bollard system.

The cost of installing bollards is typically minimal relative to the potential cost of damage, to people and the building, that an errant vehicle strike can cause.

Retail Safety Expert Investigations

The Premises Safety Experts at Robson Forensic investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of residential, institutional, and retail premises. We conduct site inspections, perform tests, and review applicable standards to learn facts and form opinions about how and why individuals were injured within the built environment.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Albert J. Kerelis, Jr., Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert

Albert J. Kerelis, Jr., AIA, NCARB, ARM

Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert
Albert Kerelis is an architect with over 25 years of experience in building design, construction administration, and property management. He applies his expertise to forensic casework involving construction claims, premises liability disputes, and matters involving architectural professional liability.


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