Exploring the biomechanics of walking and crowd "flow"

Peter Thompson, Daniel Nilsson, K E Boyce, Martin Molloy, Denise McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Crowd movement simulation models are generally based on aggregated speed and flow data collected more than 50 years ago. There appears to be no validated modelling capability to include the impact of recent and future changes in population demographics, resulting from an ageing population and increasing obesity rates. New analytical approaches and data gathering are required to successfully model crowd movement and safety for current and future generations. This study carried out (a) a review of the primary components of crowd movement, demographics and analytical techniques, (b) prototype experiments to investigate age-related aspects of space and potential points of contact and (c) a new predictive model for crowd flow analysis based on pedestrian biomechanics and anthropometric data. The model uses the physical space taken up by the biomechanical walking process and the spatial buffer between points of potential contact with other pedestrians to predict the speed of movement at different levels of congestion. The new analytical model was used to predict single file speeds (for people with different demographics in congested space), which compared well with published experimental data. The next steps for model development for wider “flows” and additional experiments to provide data sets for wider demographics are also proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-893
Number of pages15
JournalFire and Materials
Issue number6
Early online date3 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge the funding of the research project ?Crowd Safety: Prototyping for the Future? by Brandforsk. Students funded who made valuable contributions to this project include: Andreas Hansen (literature review), Jesper Friholm, and Gabriel Larsson (experimental and analytical work) from the Lund University. The authors would also like to acknowledge the input of the reference group for this project, from Brandforsk, the National Fire Protection Association, Ulster University, FireSERT, S?kerhetspartner and WSP consulting.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biomechanics
  • contact buffer
  • crowd flow
  • model
  • step length
  • walking speed


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