This study presents the findings of an evacuation experiment involving a mixed population of able-bodied walking pedestrians and wheelchair users. A simulation model capable of reproducing the results is also introduced. The experiment was designed as a square room having four hidden exits that were different in nature (narrow, wide, sloped, and with stairs). Participants selectively received information allowing them to know the nature of each exit. The conditions under which nobody/everybody knew a priori the configuration of the room were tested alongside the condition where only wheelchair users had access to this information. The results show that evacuation time was greatly reduced when the three wheelchair users (out of 52 participants) were informed of exit location and nature. A further but more limited improvement was seen when all participants received the same information. A more detailed analysis indicates that the smooth motion of wheelchair users has benefits in relation to the surrounding crowd dynamics, highlighting the importance of improving accessibility for disabled people and making available to them information on exit route characteristics. The same results were obtained using the simulation model developed to account for the presence of wheelchair users and employed to investigate more detailed scenarios. More generally, this study suggests that information provision to specific groups of pedestrians could be more efficient and achieve similar results in comparison with trying to reach the largest possible number of pedestrians. The results and the methods presented in this study are particularly relevant to the development of automatic information systems, which are becoming the backbone of large pedestrian facilities.
Feliciani, C., Murakami, H., Shimura, K., & Nishinari, K. (2020). Efficiently informing crowds – Experiments and simulations on route choice and decision making in pedestrian crowds with wheelchair users. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 114, 484–503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trc.2020.02.019