It started as an in-joke in my mind only. Saying the name felt so good. I said it over and over. Bollards, bollards, bollards. There has to be only one way to pronounce it, but who knows? I became engrossed in thoughts of bollards. They cheered me up and gave me a purpose. Bollards allowed me to ponder them without judgement. I had never thought about them before but I fell in love with bollards. I didn’t know they had a name until I saw a sign on Capitol Highway announcing road improvement plans. The first bollard I saw in person was disappointing because it didn’t match the drawing on the sign.
My interest evolved. I wondered about bollards and their purpose. One afternoon I spotted two plastic orange bollards planted in the sidewalk. The late afternoon light that shined on them created an image of beauty that overshadowed their purpose. I knew then they deserved recognition.
Bollards are tough. I witnessed one getting run over only to see it rise from the dead at its own slow motion pace. As bollards take over, they’re now creeping up Capital Highway in an effort to slow traffic, I’ve continued to wonder if there’s more to what they do. I want to believe bollards exist beyond their simple plastic tubing and bolts in the asphalt design. They have a mission. Their underappreciated sentry duty has them standing, stoic, in whatever weather, reflecting, in a literal sense, because they sport reflective rectangles that offer crash preventative measures.
There’s a whole other question that bears research. Is any metal pole that creates a barrier considered a bollard? Wait a minute, you would think I would have answered my own question already. But like the cart going before the horse, I wrote the question then started my research.
When I looked into bollards I had to turn away. What a rabbit hole! I learned that the term bollard originates from shipping. These posts were found on ships and on wharfs and were used to moor boats. The term has since expanded to mean any kind of post. It’s defined as a sturdy, short, vertical post. My eyes bugged out at the idea of bollards calming traffic while my brained buzzed with the realization that I could buy a bollard of my own if I want one. And, I really do want one.**
From the drawing I saw on the PBOT (Portland Bureau of Traffic) sign, I mistakenly thought bollards would be six and a half feet tall. It turns out that’s the measurement of the space between the bike lane and the driver lane. I need a lesson in architectural/traffic pattern drawings. The yellow color and the size imagined meant when the actual bollards showed up I was let down. The neighborhood bollards are skinny and white with their reflective abilities. It may be the gray skies, but they already appear on the grungy side.
I’ve gotten used to bollards hanging around. As the excitement waned, their novelty wore off. They’ve proven to be good neighbors. They’re quiet even as they populate the streets and they have, more or less, faded into whatever scenery we muster around here.
**Mrs. Yuchmow I think this is a good use of the word “and” to begin a sentence. I know you used to teach that it’s not a great idea to start a sentence with that word but I felt like, in the recognition of that instance of my intense desire to own my own bollard, it made sense.