Route choice in pedestrians: determinants for initial choices and revising decisions

Weichen Liao*, Armel U Kemloh Wagoum, Nikolai W F Bode

*Corresponding author for this work

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

39 Citations (Scopus)
279 Downloads (Pure)


In moving pedestrian crowds, the distribution of individuals over different available routes emerges from the decisions of individuals that may be influenced by the actions of others. Understanding this phenomenon not only is important for research into collective behaviour, but also has practical applications for building safety and event management. Here, we study the mechanisms underlying pedestrian route choice, focusing on how time-independent information, such as path lengths, and time-dependent information, such as queue lengths, affect both initial decisions and subsequent changes in route choices. We address these questions using experiments with nearly 140 volunteers and an individual-based model for route choice. Crucially, we consider a wide range of route choice scenarios. We find that initial route choices of pedestrians achieve a balanced usage of available routes. Our model suggests that pedestrians performing trade-offs between exit widths and predicted exit crowdedness can explain this emergent distribution in many contexts. Few pedestrians adjust their route choice in our experiments. Simulations suggest that these decisions could be explained by pedestrians comparing estimates of the time it would take them to reach their target using different routes. Route choice is complex, but our findings suggest that conceptually simple behaviours may explain many movement decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160684
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number127
Early online date22 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Collective behaviour
  • Crowd behaviour
  • Decision-making
  • Evacuation simulation
  • Pedestrian experiment
  • Route choice


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