What is a Bollard? The History of Bollards

Bollard definition:

  • a post of metal or wood on a wharf around which to fasten mooring lines
  • chiefly British : any of a series of short posts set at intervals to delimit an area (such as a traffic island) or to exclude vehicles (via the English dictionary)

bollard definition

So What is a Bollard? Here is Some Bollard History and Their Origins

A bollard is a sturdy, short, solid vertical post.

Although it was first described as a post or mooring bollard on a ship or quay used principally for mooring watercraft, the word is now used—primarily in British English—to describe heavy-duty posts installed in the ground to control road traffic & posts designed to prevent ram raiding and car ramming attacks.

Now, they are mostly used in front of businesses like restaurants and Wal-Marts in order to keep idiots, drunk people, and old people from accidentally slamming into buildings with their cars and harming or killing customers.

bollard crash

From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannons were often used as bollards on quaysides to help moor ships alongside.

Cannon Bollards

The cannons were buried in the ground muzzle-first to approximately half or two-thirds of their length, leaving the rear end projecting above ground for attaching ropes.

cannon bollards

These cannons can still occasionally be found. Bollards from the 19th century were purpose-made, but often inherited a very similar “cannon” shape.

British English Early Traffic Bollards

Some of the earliest bollards were made from timber and wood; however as transportation changed from horses to motorized vehicles, it became clear that cast iron was a more suitable material.

Cast iron has a very high corrosion resistance and longevity, with excellent levels of durability.

Wooden Barriers

Wooden posts were used for basic traffic management from at least the beginning of the 18th century.

One of the first well-known cases is that of the “two oak-posts” set up next to the medieval Eleanor cross at Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, in 1721—at the expense of the Society of Antiquaries of London—”to secure Waltham Cross from injury by Carriages”. Similar bollards can be seen in many old, historic paintings and engravings.


In the Netherlands, the Amsterdammertjes of Amsterdam were first erected in the 19th century. They became popular symbols of the city, but they are now gradually being removed and replaced with elevated sidewalks.

Modern-Day Bollards

Many people go about our daily lives without even realizing the role that bollards play in protecting us. It only takes a second for an evil vehicle to steer off a road and enter a pedestrian area…with potentially deadly results.

britain bollards

We do take notice when disaster is diverted by that short, heavy-duty post we’ve walked by a million times without a second thought.

Where Are Posts Usually Placed?

Bollards are often placed in areas like the corners of buildings, in front of building entrances, next to public phones, and beside mailboxes to protect against accidental vehicle impact.

When situated along roadways, they can prevent vehicles that overrun sidewalks from harming pedestrians. Bollards designed for safety reasons may be designed to fold, deflect impact, or break apart.

Determining the proper type of bollard suited to a location can be done by carrying out a comprehensive safety assessment.

What Other Types of Bollards Are There?

Some bollards are intended purely to be an ornament. As standalone architectural or landscaping features, they can border, divide, or define a space. They can also be accents, sentries, or supporting players to larger, more dramatic architectural gesture.

Decorative bollards are manufactured to mix with both traditional & contemporary architectural styles. The latter lean toward visual simplicity – often straight-sided posts with one or more reveals near the top.

Historic Periods

Styles made to match various historic periods usually have more elaborate shapes and surface details. These include flutes, bands, scrolls and other ornamentation.

The post-top is a distinctive feature; traditional bollard design often includes elaborate decorative finials, whereas contemporary versions frequently feature a simple rounded or slanted top to deter people from using them as a trash can or using them for impromptu seating.

traffic barriers

On the other hand, they are sometimes made flat and broad specifically to encourage seating. Common decorative bollard materials include iron, aluminum, stainless steel, & concrete.

What Are Other Bollard Designs?

Ornamental designs with elaborate detail are frequently made of iron or aluminum casting. Aluminum bollards are desirable for applications where weight is an issue, such as a removable bollard. Aluminum units tend to be slightly more expensive than iron.

For applications where a decorative bollard may be subject to destructive impact, ductile iron is a safer choice than more brittle metals, as force will deform the metal rather than shatter and transforming it into possible hazardous flying projectiles.

Bollard Definition

We hope this is enough information in order to understand the definition of what bollards are. They are majestic pieces of history that go ignored by the general public.

But we here at Bollards in Movies truly understand the significance of these magical traffic barrier posts.

What are Some Other Bollard Styles?

  • Surface mounted
  • Fixed bollards
  • Access control impact energy bollards
  • Retractable bollards
  • Steel posts
  • Rebounding bollards
  • Collapsible bollards
  • Embedded bollards
  • Flexible bollards
  • Steel pipe styles
  • What is a bollard?

Architectural Design

Whether you are in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, or are American English speakers in Washington DC, bicycle lanes and parking lots have at least one safety bollard preventing damage to vehicles and bikers and pedestrians.

Word of the Day

Traffic control security bollards — AKA street furniture in an upright position — should always be your word of the day.

Not to be confused with traffic signs or synonyms and related words like traffic cone, parking bollards should be at the beginning of everyone’s word origins.

Bollards for Security Purposes

Bollards are most commonly used for site security. As people are driving, they may lose control of their vehicles and ultimately crash into a building or property site. While some car crashes are accidental, others are done with malicious intentions.

Ram Raiding

Ram raiders are evil assholes that intentionally crash into a storefront or other building containing valuable items with the intention of stealing.

Preventing Accidents

To prevent both accidents and ram raiding activity, many businesses install bollards to define the perimeter of their buildings.

That way, if someone does inadvertently or intentionally drive a vehicle into a building, the high-strength steel bollard will thwart his or her attempts.

What is a Bollard?

Hopefully by now with all this awesome information, you will be able to explain to all your friends and family what a bollard is. Now please share this article.

What is a Bollard Cover?

Bollard covers are a great way to improve your facility’s perimeter, while at the same time reducing maintenance costs. This great alternative to painting will save you the time, expense and mess of paint.

What is a Safety Bollard?

A steel pipe safety bollard can be used both indoors & outdoors to protect work areas, racking, and personnel. Molded plastic caps are removable.

First Known Use in English

1844 (Victorian era) (173 years ago)

Word frequency history: 


Spanish: | bolardo (nautical)
Portuguese: | abita (nautical)
French: | bitte (nautical)
German: | Poller (nautical)
Italian: | bitta (nautical)


Bollard (US population: 450 people, white: 93%)


bol-lard (7 letters | 2 syllables)

Broader Term



bitthead, wharf, wharfage, riding bitt, dock post, bitt, pier

What is a bollard?

What is a bollard?
Bollards in Movies



  1. Jake JJ

    One time I was watching the news about storefront crashes and it was funny when the new anchors pronounced them as BAH-llards. LOL!!!

  2. stacey

    i lock my bike up on a decorative bolard every day when i go to work. the bolard is outside the front door and a lot of people see it.

  3. Karen

    My brother always called these things “traffic barriers”. I had no idea they were called “bollards”. What a crazy strange world!

  4. Laurie C.

    my neighbor had a weird obsession with these posts. in his backyard, there was a huge hole filled with bollards and pillows and his dog used to run around them in circles for hours. maybe the posts were mostly to keep his dog entertained while he binge-watched episodes of Murder, She Wrote starring the lovely Angela Lansbury.

  5. Kendall

    Bollards are awesome. I am glad you put this great information about bollards all in one place.

  6. Judah

    I am wondering if I could use removable bollard barriers to protect my garage door from the neighbor kid constantly ramming his tricycle into my garage door. What revenge that would be. He just turned 3 years old, but he’s been a pain in my ass since he was born, constantly making small dents in my garage doors.

  7. Carl Edward Sage

    I went on a vacation to Europe and I saw a street that had really creepy bollards in the shape of and painted like kids. It was so weird. I even saw a dog pee on one of them while a drunk man tried to feed it scrambled eggs.

  8. Adrian

    It’s crazy how common it is to notice bollards once you learn about them. I always notice them outside government buildings and stuff.

  9. Corey Dogg

    The power of bollards and what they can do is amazing. They protect people, places, and things. What they do is protect a lot of nouns.

  10. Ripper the Jack

    I had no idea there was so much history about these things. Very interesting read. The perimeter of my university is surrounded by bollards to keep crazy people from ram-raiding the buildings.

  11. Quinn

    I was watching an episode of The Wonder Years and I saw a traffic post in the background so I was wondering what the posts were actually called. I’m glad I came across this definition of bollards.

  12. Doug

    What kind of regulations are there for bollards? Do they have to withstand a certain weight vs. speed in accidents?

  13. Nick (Post author)

    Thank you for reading about the history of bollards.

  14. Bollard Man

    The best thing about bollards is that you can sit on them and pretend to be one. I enjoy doing that every day at around 4 in the afternoon. Someone even told me they thought I was a bollard until I looked at them and I never felt more proud of myself.

  15. Jane

    I’ve seen a lot of crazy videos on youtube where trucks and huge vehicles get totally destroyed by bollards. You should watch them, they are crazy!

  16. Nick (Post author)

    Thank you for all of the comments. I love hearing how other people have experienced bollards.

  17. Bob

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a bollard when I grew up because of the abuse I experienced as a child that made me not want to be a human anymore and have one responsibility: saving lives. While that never literally happened, I paint myself yellow-orange every morning after my shower and never speak to anyone as I walk down to the local park, standing between two other bollards for eight hours a day before my night shift as a male nurse. I also shaved my head to make it round like a bollard. I tried doing this nude with full-body paint, but I couldn’t after I was arrested for indecent exposure, so I just wear a yellow-orange jumpsuit now.

    I’ve actually managed to make some money doing this, as people mistake me for a street performer and toss coins at my feet. I’ve made $500 over the course of a year as the human bollard. Pretty cool beans. It’s just too bad I can’t actually be a bollard, but I suppose imagining my life is one is better than nothing.

    Thanks for the post, Nick!

  18. STEVE

    I want to get bollards installed around the neighborhood playground with all these crazy people out there nowadays. Need to protect.

  19. Friday

    I had a very strange friend at university that somehow removed a bollard from the ground and took off the bollard sleeve and turned the sleeve into a massive bong. He smoked a lot of weed and would put on his trainers and run around outside screaming, “I LOVE Tommy Wiseau!.”

  20. Laird

    While I was growing up, I watched a lot of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. It was an amazing TV show. Episode after episode, Jane Seymour put her heart and soul into her performance. When the show was eventually cancelled in 1998, I was devastated. So instead of being so upset about the cancellation of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, I put my energy into learning more about traffic barrier devices called bollards. Time well spent.

  21. Bill

    Once when walking down the street one afternoon, I was literally stopped in my tracks by a traffic bollard. I had never been attracted to inanimate objects before, preferring women, but what I saw before me that Saturday was the most beautiful sight I’d ever had the luxury of attracting my gaze.

    The way it stood up, perfectly in line as an immaculate portrait of the Mother of Christ, that brazen and luscious yellow-orange that screamed, “I am the sexiest,” and the delicate white and black safety stripes near the tip just sent me over the edge. I decided not to go to back to work following my lunch break, and instead embraced the bollard right then and there. We made passionate love for about 20 minutes before I was arrested, stripped away from my love. As the officers restrained me and tried to cover my privates, I yelled, “I will always have my heart open to you!” I swear I saw a tear drip down my bollard lover’s face as I was placed in handcuffs and the back seat of the police cruiser. I placed my hands on the window and mouthed to my bollard baby, “You’ll always be mine.” Tears spilled from my eyes as I drove away, taking one last look at that flawless beauty.

    I returned the next week following my arrest to find that the bollard had been removed for some reason. I wept where it once stood, hopelessly bound in the knowledge that the bollard would forever be a ghost to me from that point on. To this day I have yet to come across something so gorgeous and perfect, and I know I never will.

    1. Nick (Post author)

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

  22. Shemp

    My grandmother is a bollard. That’s why I have the same complexion as Trump, I’m unusually cylindrical in shape, and I can hardly move. I hate my grandfather. I can’t live a normal life, and I can’t even have a conversation with my grandmother, who still stands in front of the local elementary school after all these years.

    It sucks.

  23. Jeff

    I once watched a clown paint the image of Jerry Seinfeld on a bollard located in Akron, Ohio in 2004 while he was listening to the Spice Girls.

  24. echo

    From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannon were often used as bollards on quaysides to help moor ships alongside. The cannon would be buried in the ground muzzle-first to approximately half or two-thirds of their length, leaving the breech (rear end) projecting above ground for attaching ropes. Such cannon can still occasionally be found. Bollards from the 19th century were purpose-made, but often inherited a very similar “cannon” shape.


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