Public safety at the forefront

Following the Bourke Street Mall car attack in Melbourne’s CBD that claimed the lives of six people and wounded at least 30 others on 20 January this year, Australia’s major cities jumped into action.

Nearly 70 concrete bollards at Bourke Street Mall and Federation Square, as well as at least 140 concrete bollards at key pedestrian locations, have been installed around Melbourne in the months following the incident.

Sydney’s Martin Place – the site of the Lindt Café siege – also received a number of barricades, following the attack and similar instances in London, Nice and Germany.

Likewise, Adelaide City Council identified Adelaide’s pedestrian-only Rundle Mall at risk should a vehicle enter the public space.

“After what happened on Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese announced they would put safety bollards in place at Rundle Mall,” explains Craig Woods, Director at Roadside Services & Solutions.

“That was by end of January this year, and by February, Adelaide City Council needed to put a solution in place to prevent any errant vehicles entering the mall. We made contact with the council and they invited us in for a briefing of what they needed, and we offered a solution.”

Roadside Services & Solutions, an Australian manufacturer and supplier of road safety products and equipment, is the Australian distributor of the Energy Absorbing Bollard (EAB) – non-redirective crash attenuators engineered to arrest a 1600-kilogram vehicle travelling at 60 kilometres per hour.

Mr. Woods says the phrases ‘anti-terror’ and ‘terrorism’ are common when discussing the installation of such safety bollards, but he says the system serves a purpose to protect an errant vehicle entering the area.

A driver, for instance, could suffer a medical episode or simply lose control of their vehicle, he explains. The bollards are designed to not only protect pedestrians, but the driver too.

Mr. Woods says the frontal impact kinematics into an EAB are quite differently from those of the vehicle impacting a solid barrier or another vehicle.

The design of the bollard means that when a car hits it, the vehicle’s front axle lifts and the front vehicle passengers are ‘lifted’ and pushed away from the steering wheel and the dashboard, greatly reducing injuries and risk of fatality, according to Mr. Woods.

“With us having distribution rights to EAB, we thought it would be ideal for the project, which required installation of bollards at the two main entrances to the mall,” explains Mr. Woods.

Adelaide City Council wanted a reliable safety barrier system that could retract and allow entry for service vehicles.

While Mr. Woods asserts retractable safety bollards are commonplace in the Australian market, he isn’t aware of any other retractable energy absorbing bollards available, so Roadside Services & Solutions needed to come up with an appropriate solution using their own EAB product.

Complicating the task at hand was the deadline set by the council. “The council contracted us on 21 February and we had until 28 February to install bollards at both ends of the mall. So we had a really short window to get a solution up,” says Mr. Woods.

The company opted to install its static EABs within the seven days as its first port of call, and investigate developing a retractable version of the product in the weeks following.

“To get the first bollards installed required a real collaboration between a number of teams, which consisted of about four of five different companies,” says Mr. Woods. Concrete cutters, electricians and other specialised teams were needed to assist in the job, given the strict timeframe and the number of underground services within the mall.

“Obviously one of the biggest challenges we faced was the amount of service lines, and going through 800 millimetres of sandstone and concrete pavers is a tough job.”

Following successful installation of the static EABs in the last week of February, Roadside Services & Solutions began developing a retractable bollard solution for the mall using its established EAB product.

“We came up with a retractable 12-volt trickle charge, which meant that if there was a power outage or major incident, the bollards are still operational. The council saw that as a real added bonus.”

The battery powering the retractable function within the EAB is designed to be tested on a fortnightly basis, and requires replacing only every two years.

The retractable EAB now also includes flashing lights and proximity sensors. If a vehicle were to drive over the bollard when it was rising, the system would automatically sense it and stop raising until the vehicle was over it.

“From the first bollard installation date, we had the new retractable EABs up and running by the beginning of March,” states Mr. Woods. “As much as we are a reactive maintenance company, the timeframe was big challenge.”

Roadside Solutions & Services’ retractable EAB is gaining traction around Australia since the project was completed.

“We’ve installed the latest iteration as part of a permanent road closure for Peel Street in Adelaide’s CBD, which has a lot of outdoor dining areas,” says Mr. Woods, adding that the products are even being investigated for use in Melbourne as a permanent replacement for the concrete bollards currently in place.

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