Plastic Bollards Taking Over Prague’s Streets

Over the past few years, city road drivers have encountered more white and green plastic bollards, also known as ballasts. Originally intended as a temporary solution to prevent undisciplined motorists from committing offenses or showing directions, the bollards have become permanent fixtures in many places, often confusing drivers or spoiling the city’s character. According to reports, Prague is planning to stop installing the bollards.

Currently, there are 3,111 green and 496 white bollards on Prague’s roads under the Technical Road Administration’s (TSK) management, according to TSK spokeswoman Barbora Lišková. However, the actual number may be higher since the ballasts can be installed on roads and other places that do not fall under TSK’s responsibility, such as city districts or private investors. The problem of plastic bollards cluttering public spaces is not only limited to Prague but is also present in other parts of the Czech Republic.

“In recent years, we have been moving away from using ballasts. They are usually used as a temporary safety solution before a definitive construction modification is already being sensitively resolved concerning the given location, such as in the Prague Monument Reserve or heritage zones. With an awareness of the unsightly aesthetics of ballasts and their impact on the quality of public space, more subtle and visually discreet bollards are increasingly being used in the city center,” said Martina Vacková, assistant to the Deputy Mayor for Transport Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) in response to Novinky’s query.

One bollard costs approximately CZK 1,000 to CZK 1,200, and this does not include the anchor of the bollard (CZK 65 to CZK 300) and labor costs (CZK 500 to CZK 800). Although the price was not disclosed, TSK may have spent around CZK 7 million on bollards and their installation. The placement of ballasts is decided by the relevant road administration authorities based on inputs from traffic engineers and requests from the police, for example.

According to Lišková, green and white plastic bollards are hollow, and there is no significant danger or damage to the vehicle in the event of a collision with them as the barrier deforms. TSK primarily installs them as a temporary “physical barrier where traffic signs are insufficient, and drivers do not respect them. A typical example is parking in front of pedestrian crossings, where the law allows for only a five-meter ban or a marked traffic shadow,” she added.

However, a maze of dozens of cones that indicate the correct direction or lane when turning could confuse drivers. “Sometimes I have trouble figuring it out. If I didn’t already memorize my routes and turns, I would probably get a little confused about where to go due to the lack of clarity,” said Eva K., a Prague driver, in an interview with Novinky.

Despite the possible confusion, the Czech Automobile Club executive director, Richard Gironi, confirmed that drivers may indeed be misled. Still, the same situation occurs in other temporary modifications on roads. However, it is essential to realize that the permit for installation is usually given by the municipal traffic department with expanded jurisdiction, which generally requires the consent of the Czech police, he added. In the short term, using bollards to emphasize or supplement horizontal markings can be agreed upon, but not in the long run.