Social distancing slows down steady dynamics in pedestrian flows
KB Kramer and GJ Wang, PHYSICS OF FLUIDS, 33, 103318 (2021).
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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