New crash barrier standard in development to protect pedestrians from wayward vehicles, or something worse
It’s sobering to think that stopping in at the neighborhood coffee shop could cost us our life. Yet dig into media coverage in communities everywhere, and you will discover that an alarming number of errant vehicles are crashing into sidewalk cafes, daycare centers and banks. Most of the crashes are unintentional, but what if they were not?
In a post-9/11 era it’s better to be safe than sorry and prepare for both. Thanks to a new standard under development by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), pedestrians may be able to enjoy their mocha latte’ without fear of a close encounter with a few tons of glass, steel and wheels—regardless of the driver’s intent.
“The problem we’re addressing with this new standard isn’t getting a lot of media attention,” says Dean Alberson, assistant agency director and research engineer at TTI. “But a lot of people are getting hurt nonetheless, and we’re developing a standard to test safety and security devices—bollards, for example—for low-speed areas like parking lots.”
Alberson, who is spearheading TTI’s contribution toward the new standard, says that contemporary designs of sidewalk cafes, convenience stores, malls and bus stops often put pedestrians in close contact with vehicles.
“Pedestrian traffic is concentrated around store entrances, so that’s where we’re focusing this new standard,” says Alberson. “Ten years ago we would have just geared the standard toward protecting pedestrians against errant vehicles. But today our awareness has been raised because of terrorist attacks, and we have to account for that.”
Alberson says that while the new standard doesn’t cover the design of parking lots, designers can boost the safety of their parking lots by not allowing drivers a straight shot through the parking lot and into the front of a building.
Rob Reiter, national sales manager for Cal Pipe Security Bollards, helped spur development of the new standard with the ASTM International Committee F12 on Security Systems and Equipment.
“Separating pedestrians from traffic and protecting storefronts from the impacts of cars that jump curbs as a result of operator error are compelling issues of public safety and building design,” says Reiter. “Research from news sources and the insurance industry indicates that cars slam through doors, windows and walls of schools, public areas and commercial buildings at the rate of more than 100 per month around the country. Property damage, business interruption losses, personal injuries and fatalities are common.”
Reiter says the testing protocols being pioneered at TTI help create ways to evaluate products and materials that provide simple security, pedestrian protection or the ability to stop vehicles less than 5,500 pounds, traveling at normal speeds.
“We at Cal Pipe Security Bollards look forward to working with TTI in the formulation of ASTM testing standards and to conducting our impact testing program at the premier testing facility in the United States,” says Reiter.
Ed Conrath, a structural engineer with the Protective Design Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is an ASTM committee member who recently echoed the importance of developing the new standard for protecting pedestrians.
“This is a necessary standard that, if implemented, will save lives and property,” says Conrath.
Once crafted by the ASTM committee, the standard will be binding when a governing agency adopts it. Meaning, if the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, or any other agency require the standard, then builders will have to install proven, tested materials outside the building for maximum safety.
“The standard will give municipalities and others a means to evaluate competing safety and security products,” says Alberson. “Right now there is no testing standard, so if a vendor says, ‘I have a bollard to put in front of your café,’ there’s really no way to know its resistance to impact. This should be a boon to the public and private sector because they’ll have a means to compare the safety devices they’re buying for their facilities—and that’s a really valuable part of the standard.”
Alberson expects to conduct testing on protective bollards and other devices using a low-speed, wheeled bogie type test vehicle or pendulum bogie test apparatus.