Lateral excitation of bridges by balancing pedestrians

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


On its opening day, the London Millennium Bridge (LMB) experienced unexpected large amplitude lateral vibrations due to crowd loading. This form of pedestrian–structure interaction has since been identified on several other bridges of various structural forms. The mechanism has generally been attributed to ‘pedestrian synchronous lateral excitation’ or ‘pedestrian lock-in’. However, some of the more recent site measurements have shown a lack of evidence of pedestrian synchronization, at least at the onset of the behaviour. This paper considers a simple model of human balance from the biomechanics field—the inverted pendulum model—for which the most effective means of lateral stabilization is by the control of the position, rather than the timing, of foot placement. The same balance strategy as for normal walking on a stationary surface is applied to walking on a laterally oscillating bridge. As a result, without altering their pacing frequency, averaged over a large number of cycles, the pedestrian effectively acts as a negative (or positive) damper to the bridge motion, which may be at a different frequency. This is in agreement with the empirical model developed by Arup from the measurements on the LMB, leading to divergent amplitude vibrations above a critical number of pedestrians.
Translated title of the contributionLateral excitation of bridges by balancing pedestrians
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055 - 1073
Number of pages19
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2104
Early online date16 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009

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