DESIGN | A forest of bollards

Posted on 25/08/2009

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Recently, while walking along this path, my partner and I were hassled by cars wanting to park on the footpath outside the big name franchise pizza shop. It’s not the first time it happened and it was common for pedestrians to have to negotiate cars as they walked along here. There could often be six cars parked in this space rather than in car parks at the rear of the building or next to the building. This particular evening, as we walked, we’d just had enough. The driver was particularly aggressive, a woman walking her dog had to walk on the main road (i.e. 8 lane highway) to pass the parked cars and we had to walk single file to squeeze between them. A wheelchair or a pram probably couldn’t get through.

So on returning home, I emailed the local Councillor to ask if anything could be done about it. I had in my mind that a combination of footpath improvement measures were in order: bollards, plantings, grassing etc, perhaps a shady tree or two, perhaps even a collaboration with the property owner to improve the streetscape, perhaps  something that draw the community out into the streets to participate. Even though the space is on a main road, it could be used and walked more comfortably. The more pleasant it is, the more likely it is that people will walk. I was pleased when the Councillor’s office responded with a commitment that something would be done.

In a matter of weeks, the forest of bollards was installed and that was it. While I thought, at the time, that it was better than nothing, I did feel that this small win for pedestrian safety and amenity was indeed a loss for urban design and community benefit. I then asked the the Councillor if it was possible to paint the bollards, perhaps a community art project with local school children, just to have something happening at street level. It presented an opportunity to form some connections between the community and the physical/design of the space as a step, perhaps, encourage some kind of civic pride in our locality. However, Council’s response was that it did not want the maintenance burden that painting the bollards would bring. It just goes to show how public works activity can sometimes degrade public and community spaces particularly in suburban areas where Council continually fails to invest in social and community life beyond the basics and without reinstating what Boyd described in 1960 as the ‘great Australian ugliness’ and what come to experience as suburban degeneration as the urban is expensively regenerated.

Postscript:
We later did a guerilla knitting intervention, which remained for a few months though the small toys stitched to the repurposed scarf were ripped off. We often saw locals photographing it.

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Posted in: community, design, process