Road cones are known by names such as traffic pylons, traffic cones, and safety pylons, amongst others. We can thank Charles Rudabaker for the first traffic pylon; in fact, the first one of its kind was used in the same year that World War I broke out. However, those unforgiving concrete pylons were a far cry from the modern ones we have developed in modern times. Today, we have lightweight and brightly coloured rubber and PVC cones. Of course, for the most part, the average person is unlikely to know where to buy road cones – they aren’t exactly available from the corner supermarket, after all. But more on that later.
The first lightweight pylons made of rubber were invented by C. Scanlon, who worked at the Los Angeles road-painting department. He found the concrete types to be impractical. He also thought the wooden types, though significantly lighter and more portable than the concrete ones, were still far too heavy for widespread use. Scanlon was of the opinion that a lightweight and more portable pylon was needed to keep cars from driving over the freshly painted lines on the road. Pylons similar to his eventual design are still used today to keep motorists from ruining freshly painted road lines.
Pylon as the Alternative Name
The traffic cone’s alternative name of “pylon” comes from a Greek word – also “pylon” – that means “gateway”. Traffic pylons serve as gateways in the sense that they are often placed to close lanes and redirect motorists around hazards.
The Typical Features of Traffic Pylons
Though not all pylons are cone-shaped and hollow, the general design of these road-safety products means that they usually look like a cone or “witch hat”. The ones that are widely deployed on sports fields and roads are usually akin to an upturned ice-cream cone with a hollow centre for easily stacking lots of them on top of each other. This is important, as stacking helps to reduce the storage space that is required and to limit the space taken up when transporting them. Of course, with them being stackable, workers can carry several at once and quickly place them. And because the hollow centre makes them so lightweight, very quick placement possible.
So, in summary, the lightweight design is an essential feature for several reasons:
- Cost savings in terms of transportation, as more cones can be transported at the same time.
- Easier stacking, deployment, and removal.
- Preventing damage to a vehicle driving into a pylon – this is seldom more than a superficial scuff.
- No need for special equipment to place them.
Our modern pylons are made of rubber or PVC plastic and this also contributes to the product being so light. The material is UV-treated and because it is made from strong plastic, it is extremely weather-resistant and resists fading. Its durability is further bolstered by its one-piece design. With no moving or detachable parts or sections that can go missing or break off at seams or joints, the pylon can last for years. The material is also more flexible and forgiving than other materials. As such, it can take a hammering and return to its original shape – a most welcome feature.
Modern road cones also have sturdy bases. Some types have holes in the bases to allow them to be semi-permanently affixed to the surface. The sturdy base is what helps to keep the pylon in its upright position when vehicles pass it. Without the base of the pylon being heavier, it would have been blown over by the gusts of wind from passing vehicles far too easily, as well as the wind. The pylons used today are brightly coloured for maximum visibility during low-light conditions, as well as to ensure that motorists can see the warning markers at accident scenes and can follow the temporary lane created by placing the pylons. Reflective strips can be added to make the pylons even more visible, especially at night. Several colours are available, with day-glow orange being the most popular in South Africa. However, blue, green, yellow, and red ones are also commonly seen.
Traffic cones are mostly used for temporary applications. These include, but are not limited to:
- Marking areas to help pedestrians and vehicles avoid wet paint, ditches, and potholes.
- Indicating the work areas of maintenance crews and thus acting to warn and redirect traffic around such hazards.
- Indicating road closures, in conjunction with signs showing the direction to alternative routes.
- Indicating hazards such as stationary vehicles and accident scenes.
- Merging two lanes into one at roadworks.
- Reserving space at a disabled or reserved parking bay.
- Creating temporary driving courses and create parking spaces at driving schools.
Besides these applications, the pylons are also used at construction sites to warn truck drivers of no-go zones. Particularly large ones are used at mines because they must be visible from the enormous earth-moving trucks. The devices are also commonly deployed at all manner of events to create temporary walkways or ticket lines. In addition, the cones are used at sports activities such as field athletics and team sports to create temporary goalposts, obstacle courses, and the like. Other uses, from closing off areas in a shopping centre to warn of an accident scene, are among the many ways in which these pylons can be deployed.
Where to Buy Road Cones
Several DIY retail centres stock pylons. However, for bulk purchases, it is best to buy traffic cones from trusted suppliers of construction and road-safety products. These suppliers provide pylons made from extra-durable materials. Furthermore, these cones are made according to internationally accepted requirements for such safety products. You can buy the pylons at highly competitive prices when you buy in bulk. The suppliers stock various sizes according to their clients’ needs. The smaller types are ideally suited to sports gatherings and at all manner of events and the extra-large types are used at mine and engineering sites where large vehicles operate, as mentioned earlier.