Social distancing slows down steady dynamics in pedestrian flows

KB Kramer and GJ Wang, PHYSICS OF FLUIDS, 33, 103318 (2021).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0062331

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, social distancing has been broadly adopted as an effective front-line defense strategy for mitigating disease transmission. Viewed through the lens of particle-based simulations of flow, the practice of social distancing corresponds to a (significant) increase in an internal length scale of the flow, namely, the radius within which particles (pedestrians) strongly repel fellow particles. In this study, we report the results of two-dimensional pedestrian dynamics simulations modeling pedestrian counter-flows under confinement, in which individual pedestrians are described as active particles that aim to maintain a target speed while avoiding collisions. By systematically varying two quantities-the pedestrian density and the degree of social distancing-we compute fundamental diagrams for confined and socially distanced pedestrian flows, which show average pedestrian speed as a function of density and social distancing. These results reveal the sensitive dependence of average velocity on both independent variables, including a social distancing-induced jamming transition. These results highlight the need for both deliberate planning and careful public- health messaging regarding social distancing as shared indoor spaces return to appreciable levels of occupation. Published under an exclusive license by AIP Publishing.

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