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Understanding the Characteristics of Pedestrians when Passing Obstacles of Different Sizes: An Experimental Study

Abdullah N Alhawsawi, Majid Sarvi, Emad Felemban, Abbas Rajabifard, Jianyu Wang


The aim of this study is to understand the collective movements of individuals and to observe how individuals interact within a physical environment in a crowd dynamic, which has drawn the attention of many researchers. We conducted an experimental study to observe interactions in the collective motions of people and to identify characteristics of pedestrians when passing obstacles of different sizes (bar-shaped, 1.2 m, 2.4 m, 3.6 m and 4.8 m), going through one narrow exit and employing three different flow rates in walking and running conditions. According to the results of our study, there were no differences in collision-avoidance behaviour of pedestrians when walking or running. The pedestrians reacted early to the obstacles and changed the direction in which they were walking by quickly turning to the left or to the right. In terms of the speed of the pedestrians, the average velocity was significantly affected while performing these tasks, decreasing as the size of the obstacle increased; therefore, the size of obstacles will affect flow and speed levels. Travel time was shorter when participants were in the medium-flow rate experiments. In terms of the distance of each individual’s travel, our data showed that there was no significant difference in all the flow rate experiments for both speed levels. Our results also show that when the pedestrians crossed an obstacle, the lateral distance averaged from 0.3 m to 0.7 m, depending on the flow rate and speed level. We then explored how the body sways behaved while avoiding obstacles. It is observed that the average sway of the body was less in the high-speed conditions compared to the low-speed conditions – except for the HF & 4.8 m experiment. These results are expected to provide an insight into the characteristics of the behaviour of pedestrians when avoiding objects, and this could help enhance agent-based models.


obstacles evading behaviour; pedestrian sway; walking behaviour; pedestrian dynamics

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