By Melissa Bean Sterzick
I don’t often give much thought to bollards and vehicle barriers, but lately they seem to be popping up everywhere I go. I am most likely to be aware of these bumper sharks when I’m trying not to impale my car on one. But this last week, I had two opportunities to ponder the devices and their necessity. And with the holidays upon us, I am sure I will have many more special moments in parking – some more special than others, and some just plain aggravating.
My local Trader Joe’s grocery store has installed several bollards at its entrance. They come up to my middle and are covered in squishy red foam.
This Trader Joe’s is a high-volume store with a tiny and congested parking lot. Three parking spots aim right into the main entrance with a measly 6 or 7 feet of walkway between. Negotiating this area with groceries and kids has always been a challenge. There’s not a lot of room for pedestrians.
I think the posts are bulky and cause an already crowded area to feel even tighter, but they do make absolute sense. I gave one a few kicks to see if it was the bendy kind, much to the delight of my children, and went about my business.
A few days later, I made a run to the hardware store for some gardening supplies. As I rolled my shopping cart inside, I passed an 8-foot-wide area of destruction that included an uprooted handicapped parking sign post, a crushed retaining wall, and several ragged and half-dead dwarf date palms (say that five times fast).
The rectangular blue handicapped sign itself was bent and chipped, the wall of the building was scratched and dented, and bits of debris were everywhere. Someone had run his or her car through the sign, up onto the sidewalk and right into the side of the building. There were no bollards or barriers in front of that business, just a curb.
The plot thickened. As I paid for my cabbage plants and mulch at the register, I sated my curiosity with small talk about the damage outside.
“I guess somebody ran into your building,” I said to the cashier.
“Yes, and it’s the second time in that same spot. It happened a few months ago and we had it all fixed, and now they’ve done it again. I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
“Doesn’t that make you nervous?” I asked.
“Naw, that wall’s pretty thick.”
Once a month, I come across a headline about some errant driver making his or her way off the road and directly into a home or business. Some are drunk, some suffer temporary and undiagnosed blindness, and others mistake the gas for the brake pedal.
I once crashed a moped, so I know exactly how easy it is to hit the gas instead of the brake in a terrifying moment of insanity. Luckily, I didn’t run into a beauty parlor or grocery store. No, I laid that hot rod down on my leg, and my pride, and suffered severe road rash to both.
Whenever I see those headlines, I remember that bumper sticker from the ‘80s. No, not the one that said, “You’re ugly and your momma dresses you funny.” I loved that one. The one I’m talking about said, “If you don’t like my driving, stay off the sidewalk.” It’s such a hilariously defiant and stupidly dangerous statement – the irony gets me every time.
I pondered the cashier’s statement: “I don’t know what they’re thinking.” I doubt the hardware-store crashers were thinking: “I’ve got a low deductible. I’d like to see what it feels like to ram my car into a cinderblock wall.” This time of year they could possibly be thinking, “I’d rather take a nap while driving than go into another crowded store.”
Probably, they weren’t thinking at all; that’s why they missed several reliable indications that it was time to stop: curb, sidewalk, shrubbery. Thankfully, no one inside was hurt in either incident, and as far as I know, it was a different driver each time.
I don’t exactly like the look of bollards and barriers, or their potential to destroy my bumper if I’m not careful in reverse, but I understand their importance. Anything to keep vehicles out of shops and businesses is a good idea, no argument there. (I’d like to install a few bollards around my children, but I doubt they’d like that.)
Now I know I’m safe at Trader Joe’s, and I’m always grateful to have one less thing to worry about. However, I’m obviously not safe at the hardware store.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.