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Bollards, Gates, and other Barriers

Photo of Bollards blocking access to a trail.
Photo of bollards on the Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail in Pawlet VT. Trail users created a new trail to get around the bollards.
Photo by Jon Kaplan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Thank you to information sources and reviewers: John Ciccarelli, Bicycle Solutions; Jakob Helmboldt, Virginia Department of Transportation; Richard Moeur, Arizona Department of Transportation; Mark Plotz, National Center for Bicycling and Walking and NCBW Forum; John Williams, Tracy-Williams Consulting; Trails for the Twenty-First Century, 2nd Edition, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Jennifer Toole, Toole Design Group; Jim Lazar, Olympia (WA) Safe Streets Campaign; Maggie O'Mara, Bicycle Design Reviewer, California Department of Transportation, John F. Cinatl, Associate Transportation Planner - Bike Facilities, California Department of Transportation.

Some trail managers install bollards, gates, or other barriers to restrict unauthorized use. Trail managers should question whether bollards, gates, fences, or other barriers are needed at all. For the purpose of the bullets below, "bollard" includes bollards, gates, fences, or any other barrier constructed or installed next to, within, or across a trail presumably to restrict unauthorized access.

If installed, bollard, gates, fences, or other barriers:

According to Trails for the Twenty-First Century, 2nd Edition (April 2001), published by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

If you determine that a traffic barrier is necessary, ensure that barriers are well marked and visible to bicyclists, day or night... Bollards must be at least 3 feet tall and should be placed at least 10 feet from the intersection. This will allow trail users to cross the intersection before negotiating the barrier posts...

One bollard is generally sufficient to indicate that a path is not open to motorized vehicles. The post should be placed in the center of the trail tread. Where more than one post is necessary, a 5-foot spacing is used to permit passage of bicycle trailers, adult tricycles, and wheelchairs. Always use one or three bollards, never two. Two bollards, both placed in the paved portion of the trail, will channel trail users into the center of the trail, causing possible head-on collisions. Bollards should be designed to be removable or hinged to permit entrance by emergency and service vehicles... (Pages 85-86).

Additional Notes:

Additional Resources:

Updated: 12/18/2015
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