Rise of the flexible bollard system

The flexibility of automated bollard systems has breathed fresh life into traffic enforcement methods. Roadtraffic-technology.com investigates the innovation behind the rise of multipurpose bollards and its wide array of uses.


When it comes to traffic management in the UK, planning committees will go to great lengths to ensure restrictions are in place. Residential zones with strict, lower speed-limits have almost become commonplace and the opening and closing of certain roads at certain times has been identified as an effective traffic easement method.

Through the use of innovative technology and hydraulics, automated bollards as a traffic calming solution have become more apparent. The ability to ensure and regulate accessibility to key areas of a town or residential area has led to an increasing number of bollard-focussed traffic systems being installed.

Bollards remain a secure, aesthetically pleasing yet highly visible means of controlling traffic, and by design can be used to manipulate traffic.

Bollard systems have been used to filter and regulate traffic around pedestrian zones, residential areas, bus gates and congestion zones, whilst also providing security around government buildings and car parks.

As provided by MACS, an automated bollard system can provide bollards in typical sizes of 127/275mm by 600/800mm, with a hydraulic pump fitted within the foundation box of the unit rather than the actual control cabinet. This allows for a more reliable bollard that is less susceptible to leakages, providing a more durable system.

A further benefit of the systems is its capability of being linked to local CCTV control rooms, allowing for far more established control and visibility over the system with operators able to raise and lower bollards from a control room using a CCTV feed.

Remote fault monitoring

"Bollards remain a secure, aesthetically pleasing yet highly visible means of controlling traffic."

Furthermore, the automated bollard system can be maintained through the use of the MACS intelligent fault monitoring system, capable of remotely reporting a fault without the need of costly engineer call-outs.

A bespoke system is comprised for each user, with differing factors such as the number of bollards, access control options and use of a one way or two traffic system, are used to create a unique system catered for individual requirements.

This allows the user to diagnose a fault with any given bollard and gain solutions from MACS engineers, reducing bollard down-time and maintenance costs associated with engineer call-outs.

The system also has the added benefit of allowing a controller to lock bollards in a particular position, be it raised or lowered, in case of an emergency, before returning to a regular operational mode.

A rise in technology has led to the bollard being far more than just a traffic management tool, however, with rising numbers of capabilities being attached to a bollard design.

Variations on the bollard and its design

A new range of bollards released by MACS, fitted with environmentally-friendly LEDs and designed to be used as both a traffic light and public access control system, has been dubbed the traffic indicator range.

"Bollard systems have been used to filter and regulate traffic around pedestrian zones."

The LEDs can appear in a red or green colour to signal 'stop' or 'go' in the same fashion as a standard traffic light, but can be configured to grant access through various means.

The bollards can be fitted with a multifunction keypad, telecom, swipe card, proximity fob reader or Telguard access system, in order to allow access for specified users.

An emerging form of identification for road-users, however, could prove to be far more efficient.

Using technology more commonly associated with speed cameras, bollards could be used to identify users via their number plate before allowing or refusing access.

Fitted with a camera and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) capabilities, the pre-configured and easy to install bollards provide access by checking the number plate against a predetermined list that are granted access.

The cameras can provide 98% capture reliability to minimise cases of mistaken identity, while costs can be kept down by cutting out the costly exercise of producing a set number of access fobs and distributing them. Vehicle registrations can simply be kept in a central database, allowing vehicles such as goods delivery into areas of city centres when required.

Public transport options

MACS have also developed a platform suitable for use on public transport links too, encapsulating a reader and an identification tag that can be fitted onboard a vehicle that grants access upon their approach.

"A rise in technology has led to the bollard being more than just a traffic management tool."

The TagMaster RFID reader has a reading range of up to six metres and works on an open Linux platform, with either a TCP / IP or stand-alone network. The reader units can both read and write information on the tags using radio waves, making them perfectly suited to where a long-reading range and high reading precision are required. The Linux platform also enables easy integration and adaptation to specific requirements determined by users.

The TagMaster is calibrated to ignore frequencies outside the 2.45GHz band, so electrical noise will not disrupt their performance. All units are weatherproofed to class IP 65 in order to protect them from environmental conditions.

The tags themselves are credit-card sized and consist of an antenna for transmission, memory circuit and a long life battery, which can last between six and ten years due to no power consumption as a result of being read.

They are identifiable by a unique eight-digit ID code and a 32-bit check sum, with both read-only and read-write cards available. For more rugged vehicles, such as trucks or rail wagons, heavy-duty tags are also available and are resistant to extreme temperatures, excessive moisture and shocks.