Do 'child bollards' improve school road safety?
They may look like Chucky’s sober cousin, but the child-shaped bollards installed in the village of Iver, Buckinghamshire, are there to make the roads safer. The creepy-looking statues, which have come in for criticism, are intended to make it clear to drivers that there is a school – and real, living children – in the vicinity. Named Bill and Belinda, the bollards can already be found outside schools in Leicester, Plymouth and Kirkby. Retailer Barriers Direct describes the £500 obstacles as “low maintenance” (which, given that they are fake children, is fairly obvious) and “extremely strong”. They can also be customised to the colours of local school uniforms. And – apparently – they work. “People can initially be quite sceptical, but certainly drivers say they’re more aware of them than [they are of] normal bollards,” says Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for children, young people and schools at Leicester city council, which has installed a number of similar bollards since 2009. “It reminds people to think a little more around schools. It gives them a nudge so they’re conscious of their driving behaviour around children.” Bill and Belinda have their critics. In 2011, plans to install them outside a primary school in Plymouth were rejected by concerned parents who said they were like something out of Doctor Who. In Buckinghamshire, there was a similar backlash: “Will drivers not just get used to seeing them and so become relaxed and in turn taking [sic] no notice when kids are actually around?” one Facebook user posted on the site’s Iver parish council page. “If I was a driver, they would scare me into crashing; super creepy,” wrote another. It is a legitimate concern. “As permanent fixtures, their efficacy could be short-lived and may initially cause a distraction for passing drivers who double-take at the figures,” says Edmund King, president of the AA. They are an “interesting idea”, says Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, but “it’s important that the council evaluates whether they are more effective than other types of bollards in slowing down drivers and discouraging poor parking, and whether they cause inadvertent effects, such as distracting drivers”. For now, then, don’t worry too much about them turning up on a street near you.