UCL News


Scientists walk on tech pavement

9 September 2006

Scientists are using the computer-controlled surface to recreate all sorts of pedestrian nightmares.

The work at Pamela - the Pedestrian Accessibility & Movement Environment Laboratory - has been described at the British Association's Science Festival.

"If you think of places such as Oxford Circus around Christmas time, pedestrian capacity is a big issue," said Professor Nick Tyler [UCL Civil & Environmental Engineering].

"How much of that is just due to having too many people in the space, and how much could be improved by thinking about how that space is organised?"

The artificial pavement covers 80 square metres of floor space, and is supported by 208 mechanical legs which can change its slope and evenness.

Researchers can alter the lighting and noise conditions, creating scenarios ranging from street-light-illuminated midnight scenes to a dawn landscape accompanied by birdsong. …

Pamela will generate data that should lead to improvements in the design of pavements, footways and concourses, and will enable new ideas and products to be tried out.

Research of this kind could inform design decisions on issues such as surface types, colours, smoothness, slopes and lighting. …

Professor Tyler hopes the research will get to the bottom of those problems that generally go unnoticed, but which can nonetheless make the lives of less mobile people miserable. …

Poorly designed streets can have a severe impact on the lives of less mobile people.

Professor Tyler said: "Older people often start to feel a lack of confidence because they fall down, and they stop going out. They can feel very isolated."

Elli Leadbeater, BBC News