Walking toward one of the revamped intersections in downtown Los Altos, it’s hard not to notice a decorative, short, black pole protruding from the new sidewalk. Its presence has left a few pedestrians scratching their heads.
“What is it?” they ask.
“That’s an interesting question,” said one driver while staring at it.
“I don’t need to tie up my horse,” a passerby quipped.
Introducing: the bollard.
Bollards, introduced as posts to dock ships, are commonplace around the world. In cities, they are posts, about 3-4 feet high and made of metal or cement, that prevent vehicles from veering off the road.
Their functionality is easily overlooked, as is the case in Los Altos.
City Manager Doug Schmitz said the bollards downtown – there are two placed diagonally at each new intersection – protect people and property through their obtrusive presence and also serve as decorative elements.
“From time to time, cars leave the roadway,” said Dave Brees, who served as project manager on the intersection overhauls.
He pointed to incidents in which a vehicle hit Starbucks at Main and Second and last year’s high-profile accident in which a car crashed through the front of U.S. Bank across the street from Starbucks.
Brees said the new bollards have already proven their worth. A vehicle hit the bollard at State and Third streets just two days after the post’s July 6 installation.
The bollard has been repaired and repainted.