BlockAides Inc.

One of the biggest trends sweeping urban landscapes all across North America is making downtown areas more pedestrian-friendly. Dubbed “pedestrianization,” this school of urban planning has been utilized to redevelop city neighborhoods to promote more foot traffic and create spaces where people can gather. According to the proponents of this school of thought, pedestrian-friendly areas promote better health and fitness through walking or bike riding, enhance economic opportunities by creating more foot traffic around local businesses and reduce pollution by encouraging city-dwellers to leave their cars parked to complete their daily activities. 

However, even though this approach takes a lot of people out of their cars, the fact remains that these pedestrian-friendly areas still are surrounded by busy urban streets. A major component of making neighborhoods pedestrian-friendly is making pedestrians feel safe to walk on sidewalks and through public squares. Protecting pedestrians and storefronts from traffic is central to the business of BlockAides Inc., and Manager/Consultant Rob Reiter says the company has become one of the leading voices in promoting the pedestrian-friendly urban environment and one of the biggest suppliers of the products that make those environments safe for pedestrians, storeowners and drivers. 

Based in Placentia, Calif., BlockAides supplies safety equipment designed to protect people and property from vehicles. The company’s primary product lines include bollards, barriers and signage, and its customer base is a mix of contractors and property owners. Reiter says the company’s products are used heavily in municipal applications, and recently streetscapes have become a major segment of its business. Originally part of a larger manufacturing company, BlockAides came into its own after the company’s new owners spun off the bollard and barrier segment of the business. 

The Clear Edge

Reiter says the advantages BlockAides brings to this niche market are numerous and give it a clear edge over other manufacturers in the bollard and barrier segment. For example, he says, BlockAides’ lean structure gives it a responsiveness that not many other manufacturers can offer to clients. “I think one of our distinguishing features is that we’re small and nimble,” Reiter says. “The product line is very tight – there isn’t a lot of legacy product out there.”

With very few security products like BlockAides’ already out in the world, there are a lot of opportunities for manufacturers. That means there are many competing for the same business, but Reiter says BlockAides excels in offering a product that is a step above the bare-bones products other manufacturers might be offering. In addition to standard fixed bollards, BlockAides also provides retractable bollards, lighted bollards and removable bollards. Reiter says the company stands apart from its competitors through its ability to produce innovative products like its removable lighted bollard, which is one of the few such products in the industry.

Extensive Experience

The other significant advantage BlockAides brings to the marketplace is its extensive experience and advocacy in terms of creating pedestrian-friendly urban streetscapes. Reiter says the company has conducted extensive studies of how pedestrians and vehicle traffic interface in an urban setting, and it has become a highly sought-after consultant in such efforts. A series of high-profile streetscape projects throughout North America have helped to elevate BlockAides’ profile in the safety and security industry, and also provided strong examples of how streetscapes can introduce more foot traffic while remaining safe for pedestrians. 

“All of those have involved changing the way traffic works on a boulevard and changing the pedestrian experience,” Reiter says. 

One of these prominent projects was a development of the downtown area of Kitchener, Ontario. The city contracted engineering and architectural firm IBI Group to redesign the core streets of the downtown to create a friendlier environment that would promote more public gatherings and greater private sector investment. A significant factor in the new plan was the use of removable bollards manufactured by BlockAides. These removable bollards allow the city to create flexible parking or sidewalk areas as well as allowing for easier road closures. Other recent projects of a similar nature where BlockAides has been involved include Chula Vista, Calif., and Buffalo, N.Y. 

Holding Position

BlockAides has become one of the premier bollard companies in the industry, but Reiter says the company’s position is under constant attack, and this has intensified over the last few years as federal safety projects have started to dry up. “The biggest single change in our industry is bollard companies were benefiting from the many billions of dollars being spent by the Department of Homeland Security,” Reiter says. 

This has resulted in many of the larger manufacturers looking for smaller projects to make up the revenue lost, which places greater pressure on BlockAides. Reiter says the company compensates for this by concentrating on its consultation work and educating clients about the differences between economy bollards and those of higher quality like the ones it provides. 

Reiter says BlockAides is excited about the new ASGM standard F3016, which is the first test standard for commercial bollards that provide barriers between people and cars. The new standard was approved in December, and Reiter says it will be the standard all architects, engineers and building departments will need to follow. “For our niche, this is the biggest thing for the next several years,” he says. 

With the new standard driving greater adoption of bollards in safety applications, BlockAides stands positioned to put its expertise to even greater use. Reiter says the company looks forward to maintaining its leadership position for years to come. 

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