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Self-organisational behaviour patterns in crowds within the context of crime at bus stops

22 March 2013


Reka Solymosi

Objectives: Transport systems in large urban areas have been identified as conducive to creating criminogenic environments. Variables such as crowding have been associated with high rates of crime incidents in certain hot spots, but the specific dynamics involved with how passengers navigate their environment has not yet been analysed, and this study aims to fill that gap.  Methods: This study takes a novel approach to tackling a problem from the social sciences by using a laboratory experiment and precise measurement tools, applied from the domain of engineering.  Passenger behaviour while boarding a bus was analysed to develop an understanding of the local-level interactions that contribute to emergent crowd self-organizational behaviours.  Results: Results show the routine activity of ‘taking the bus’, when broken down into phases, presents greatest crowding levels while passengers board the bus, followed by the time they spend waiting at the stop, and least so when they are already aboard the bus. The effect of warning messages was also considered, finding that for the most part passengers are unable to alter their spatial behaviour whilst required to complete their primary tasks, except for the time they spend ‘close’ to fellow passengers, which they reduce significantly under credible warning conditions when compared with normal conditions.   Conclusions: Using laboratory experiments to study spatial behaviour allowed for the identification of specific elements of crowding at bus stops that create crowded environments and ways in which self-organisation changes under warning conditions.