How do pedestrians avoid collisions?

As you walk city streets, frustrated at why those other pedestrians behave so frustratingly, be aware that scientists are trying to improve the situation, but are making progress only in slow steps.

Dr Taku Fujiyama [pictured here, receiving an award], one of the modern masters in this endeavour, is a lecturer at University College London’s Secret Centre, or “the £17m international centre for PhD training in security and crime-relatedresearch“.

Fujiyama began his work before joining Secret. In 2005, while affiliated (as he still is) with UCL’s Centre for Transport Studies, he published a study called Investigating Use of Space of Pedestrians. It proposed a series of experiments in and on a mobile lighting-and-sound-system-equipped “elevated demountable paved platform”.

Different kinds of people – old, young, fat, thin – ambled and strode along the platform. A laser tracking system monitored their every motion and stoppage.

One early experiment focused on how people avoid collisions….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.