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Public spaces

Walking and talking

Tecnociencia_Japão jpgDaniel BuenoAn agreeable pastime, watching how people walk down the street, may also contribute to the design of safer and more pleasant public spaces. During one year, Francesco Zanlungo, Dražen Brščić, and Takayuki Kanda from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan, spent a year recording the passage of thousands of people down a hallway 3 meters wide in a commercial building in Osaka, Japan. Their goal was to discover how walking speed down the hallway changed when people were walking in groups of two or three, talking among themselves. They also wanted to know whether walking speeds would differ when people were far apart or walking close to each other. After recording 800 hours of data using cameras and motion sensors, the team analyzed and made a detailed comparison between the walking styles of 3,305 pairs and 602 trios of walkers. They observed what other, similar studies had already detected: regardless of the spacing between people, trios tend to walk slower than pairs and always with one person slightly ahead, in an inverted “V” formation (Physical Review E, June 19, 2015). The researchers suspect that these regular patterns are associated with the conflict between maintaining a conversation and simultaneously having to move forward and pay attention to obstacles along the way.