Case Studies

Studying Synchronisation In Pedestrians on Footbridges


Human-structure vibrations generated by pedestrians on structures, particularly footbridges, is an important area for civil engineers. Walking tests on a 110m long, single tower, cable-stayed footbridge in Exeter enabled researchers from the Vibration Engineering Section at University of Exeter to study synchronisation amongst pedestrians on the bridge.


Six undergraduate student volunteers were instrumented with wireless accelerometers, and each pedestrian had one accelerometer placed on their lower back and one accelerometer on their right foot. The data from these sensors were used to estimate the forces exerted by the volunteers on the bridge which could then be used to simulate the response of the footbridge. To measure the bridge response, a set of 17 wired accelerometers was arranged along the deck. Twenty walking tests were conducted, with different walking speeds or spatial arrangements. During some tests, a metronome was used to control one volunteer’s speed, whilst other tests involved unprompted walking.

Similar experiments have been performed on a range of other footbridges to explore human factors responses.


For more details about this and other tests on footbridges, please visit the VES Blog here


Application to VSimulators

Results and information from this case study are beneficial in expanding knowledge on how to perform health monitoring of pedestrian bridges and understanding human factor impacts. VSimulators, as a testing platform, enables the the vibration signals to be fed into the facility, to accurately replicate motion, and consequently to support the understanding as to structural movement and the human factors experience. The replicated environment could be explored by multiple users, contractors, and asset owners to provide a realistic understanding as to how a footbridge feels and functions.


Alternatively the data could be used to simulate the vibrations likely to be experienced users or to explore a designed space, drawing on a variety of build materials, to influence client decisions prior to construction.


Please contact us if you wish to discuss a similar idea or problem.


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