Security bollards could also provide bike parking
Security measures are often antithetical to good urban design and vibrant city streets. But instead of hoping for them to go away, we can at least push for them to serve other uses as well, like doubling as bike racks.
Foggy Bottom, where I live, has high security neighbors like the State Department, Federal Reserve, several high profile embassies, the IMF and the World Bank. There's hardly a street corner you can stand on where there aren't security bollards visible in one direction or another.
For all the surplus of posts, planters and barriers of all kinds, there is a commensurate dearth of something else: bike racks. While many of these institutions provide bike parking in the building for their workers, there is little in the way to accommodate visitors to the area who come on bikes.
Scenes like this are far too common, where bikes are locked to the occasional sign pole amid rows of barriers:
The only outdoor bike racks in the Federal Triangle I could find were not even on federal land but outside the Wilson Building, DC's state house/city hall. Those racks are behind an area that looks somewhat like a security checkpoint, and are absolutely packed while the sidewalks outside other buildings are barren:
Throughout the city there are entire neighborhoods completely devoid of bike racks yet filled with bollards, planters, jersey barriers and other security perimeter devices. These include Foggy Bottom, Federal Triangle, Judiciary Square, Union Station/SEC/Judiciary Building, Navy Yard/DOT, just to name a few.
Reliance Foundry, a manufacturer of bike parking infrastructure, sells a line of "bike bollards." We've all seen similar posts, but usually they appear in places where maybe there is not enough space to fit a larger rack, or they were chosen for aesthetic reasons.
But the term bike bollard implies a mixed use that I have yet to see: security bollards that double as bike parking. Some of the bollards are as thick or thicker than those around federal buildings.
It may not be practical for every bollard around a building perimeter to have loops for securing a bike, lest they inhibit effective flow of foot traffic during major events. But around a building that covers an entire city block, why not incorporate bike parking into bollards on sections of the sidewalk that have already been rendered otherwise useless by the bollards?
The World Bank has already experimented some with multifunctional security measures by incorporating benches and trashcans around some buildings. Other buildings around the city have managed similar strategies using large planters or long, oversized flower pots as security barriers that at least to help beautify the streetscape.
Benches are nice, but at most high security buildings, they are rarely used by more than the occasional office smoker because there are no other streetscape amenities like shops or cafes that would give anyone a reason to sit around. In a city with an acknowledged dearth of bike parking, this compromise seems more ideal.
Another way to make security measures useful is creating a building perimeter with usable floor space. Say what you will about the compound as a whole, this has been accomplished with relative grace and success at the ATF Headquarters across the street from New York Avenue Metro.
This solution reduces the wasted space and dead streetscapes from huge building setbacks and security restrictions on ground floor uses.
What other practical applications are there for security infrastructure? As the General Services Administration and the National Capital Planning Commission work on "activating federal places," hopefully some of these ideas can make it into the design of future security barriers or renovated federal buildings.
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