The scene in airports, railroad stations and malls is familiar: crowds of people walking across a large expanse taking whatever route they choose.
It makes it difficult for shuttle carts to navigate and much more so for those in wheelchairs, as well as families or groups of school children that need to be kept intact.
Making the Case for Order
It’s probably already happened. Someone’s leg gets bumped by a shuttle cart—litigation ensues. A knockdown occurs in a cross traffic dash—insurance companies trade information. Large venues that invite the public can’t guarantee pedestrian safety. However, owners that do consider this a factor are avoiding the consequences.
Applying the rules of the road to interior pedestrian traffic should represent a reduction in insurance premiums and most certainly reduce the litigation factor.
Handling crowds of people with various destinations calls for observational studies that indicate the predominant flow. College and university circulation studies have begun with leaving the “quad” untouched and, over the course of months paths are worn through the grass and dominant pedestrian patterns are established. Cameras that observe pedestrian movement, over the course of a few months, will contribute helpful information. Of course, the context will dictate the extent of design results and the solution may be a simple one.
Echoing the design of broad streets, planted with natural stone garden pots will perform the function that separates the traffic flow. We know that most people, being right-handed, will tend to walk to the right—which they will do in spite of a destination they know to be on the left—particularly with intermittent breaks in the median. It may call for extra steps, but the desire for order is fairly strong in the human psyche. The stone planters can also accommodate stopping points along the way. Benches and side tables allow a break in the long trek from ticket counter to boarding area for the older person, as well as families with small children. Any other landscape design ideas can transform a place into an orderly fashion.
Islands can be as grand as poured concrete, similar to street medians, planted with a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. Another model suggests potting palms in a row that responds to the floor configuration. Smaller designer pots for plants enhance seating vignettes. Providing a wire armature between the palms, with training vines to run along its length, will be made all the more attractive with hanging baskets of colorful blooms that can thrive without a constant watering demand to heed water conservation efforts are the best choice. The design will perhaps have the effect of slowing the mad rush syndrome that seems to communicate itself to foot traffic. Surely not everyone is late for a departure, but everyone seems to be hurrying. Plants are known to counteract the problem.
Bonus: Good for the Senses
A bonus rewards pedestrians further by dampening the sound of clicking heels and the normal din that echoes about in large spaces with hard surfaces. Moreover, the scent of living things is always welcome in a man-made environment, especially so in crowds.