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Managing the masses, when push comes to shove

Managing the masses, when push comes to shove
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Major events, such as concerts or sports matches, can involve risks. When too many people are in a space which is too small or badly adapted to their numbers, panic can set in, often with fatal consequences – as happened at the Love Parade in Germany in 2010.

So the Basigo Project was set up. It aims to improve security at mass events by better understanding how crowds move.

In one of its experiments, taking place in Dusseldorf, hundreds of people patiently walk through what looks like an obstacle course.

The head of the experiment, Armin Seyfried, explained: “For cars there are traffic rules, there are crossings and tracks, and even traffic lights – so there is some form of regulation. That is not the case for pedestrians. We’ve learned that we can also influence those rules for pedestrian crossings. The question is: How wide must a structure be to allow a certain number of people to pass through? These figures have hardly been explored before, especially in complex traffic intersection. But we have identified these figures in the experiments.”

On every run, the 1,400 participants wore hats and each hat had a unique computer-readable symbol on top, so each person’s path could be tracked.

Simulations of different visitor flows, such as arrivals and departures, will allow potential bottlenecks to be identified before they happen.

One participant said: “I’ve been to several festivals and concerts so I already know the feeling of being in a large crowd. It was interesting to experience it here under controlled conditions. We knew that nothing could happen here, but it was impressive to see how so many people can align in a small place”.

The German government is backing the project, which will lead to a computer-based planning tool for major events.