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January 24, 2007

Traffic safety at the Hajj

photo of pilgrims at the Hajj

I have an unusual interest in the psychology and mechanics of traffic control (here's a recent article of mine), so it was like a big pipe of crack on Christmas morning for me when I saw this item on Boing Boing about traffic control at the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to the holy sites in and around Mecca.

Dirk Helbing, a professor of traffic modeling who makes a specialty of studying crowd movement, analyzed videos of pedestrian traffic flow at last year's Hajj, where more than 350 people where crushed in crowds. After implementing Helbing's traffic flow suggestions, not a single Hajj pilgrim was crushed at this year's Hajj.

The website of the science journal Nature has a write-up of Helbing's work. On Helbing's site there are lots of photos, a pdf of the article, and some haunting videos of Hajj crowds.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at January 24, 2007 07:06 AM