Insight into behaviour of pedestrians as well as tools to assess pedestrian flow conditions are important in for instance planning and geometric design of walking facilities under regular and safety-critical circumstances. Strangely enough, research of pedestrian traffic flows has only been given limited attention during the last decades. Recently, interest in this field of research is growing, since walking is a part of the transport chain of extraordinary importance, without which hardly any movement is possible. Examples are access and egress to public transport service, pedestrian flows in inner city areas, central business districts and shopping centres, and crowds during emptying of theatres and sports stadiums and during festivals.

The activities of the Transport & Planning department of the Delft University of Technology are twofold. First of all, the department develops tools to study pedestrian behaviour as well as to support the design process of pedestrian facilities. Secondly, the researchers aim to increase their insights into pedestrian behaviour, both on the level of individual pedestrians and on the more aggregated level of crowds. The latter starts with observations of this behaviour, which are translated into theories and models accurately describing pedestrian behaviour and finally resulting in a simulation tool. This process, as well as the relations between the various phases, is shown in the figure below.

Data collection

To increase insights into pedestrian behaviour, to develop pedestrian theories and models, and to calibrate and validate the simulation tools microscopic data are needed on pedestrian walking behaviour. Since such extended data sets are not available, the department is involved in collecting real-life data as well as the performance of extensive controlled walking experiments. During these experiments subjects (pedestrians) are assigned various instructions with respect to walking speed, walking direction, etc. These experiments are recorded with a video camera located on top of the experiment area. Dedicated software has been developed to automatically detect and track pedestrians in order to derive pedestrian trajectories (x- and y-coordinates of pedestrian locations for each tenth of a second).

Simulation models

To assess designs of pedestrian facilities and to investigate pedestrian behaviour, the department of Transport & Planning has developed two simulation model. NOMAD describes the behaviour of individual pedestrians, based on the desired walking direction, speed and interactions with other pedestrians and obstacles. SimPed is a combined microscopic and macroscopic simulation tool, capable to model large areas with many pedestrians present. It distinguishes individual pedestrians performing activities and choice processes, such as route choice and activity location choice. Walking behaviour however is modelled macroscopically using speed-density relations describing pedestrian flows. An advantage of this approach is calculation efficiency, such that large areas with many pedestrians may be simulated.


Using the knowledge on pedestrian flows and applying the developed simulation tools allows to give advices on problems existing in the society. These can be very short and specific advices, or very extensive advices, with or without the use of a simulation model.

A complete list of all research activities performed by the department of Transport & Planning, can be found on the page research overview.


Name author: Winnie Daamen
© 2016 TU Delft