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ABSTRACT

Crowding is a reality in which we find ourselves involved daily. The crowd produced in a traffic jam is a dynamic entity in which the application of physics, mathematics and biology can provide practical help to understand how and why this problematic situation occurs and what solutions can be found to resolve it. In the mobility education project SicuraMENTE, we carried out an experiment on the conduct of a crowd by simulating a situation of intense city traffic. Taking a cue from an experimental situation proposed in traffic physics, we have verified that a route with limited access can generate a traffic jam and the crowd of pedestrians can be mitigated by forcing the crowd to use dedicated streets. Taking the outgoing time of the student crowd from the outlet road, with and without the presence of an obstacle in the middle of the roadway, it was found that the traffic jam is resolved more quickly in the situation with an obstacle because the flow of people is divided into two separate channels, reducing the probability that two individuals are close and that this creates an obstruction (example of counter-intuitive physical principle). We also verified that the speed of the elements of the crowd influences the formation of traffic jams, which are on average more likely in the case of higher speed. These important aspects in the design of road networks and transport infrastructure have made students reason on physics topics, but also on the correct conduct in traffic. The multidisciplinary approach in education for safe and sustainable mobility, so innovative in Italy, turned out to be effective in terms of teaching in the frame of a mix of academic disciplines, in which road safety education has become the context and the goal.

KEYWORDS

Mobility education, physics of traffic, crowd theory, middle school.

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