Risky Walking? (08-06-19)

Pedestrians’ apparent lack of awareness of their surroundings may not raise safety issues. A team lead by Harms reports that “Pedestrians are commonly engaged in other activities while walking. The current study assesses (1) whether pedestrians are sufficiently aware of their surroundings to successfully negotiate obstacles in a city, and (2) whether various common walking practices affect awareness of obstacles and, or, avoidance behavior. To this end, an obstacle, i.e., a signboard was placed on a pavement in the city centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands. . . . More than half of the participants (53.8%) was unaware of the signboard, still none of them had bumped into it. Mind wandering, being engaged in secondary tasks such as talking with a companion or using a mobile phone, and being familiar with a route, did not affect awareness nor avoidance behavior. In conclusion, despite being very common there was no evidence that walking without awareness necessarily results in risk.”

Ilse Harms, Joke van Dijlen, Karel Brookhuis, and Dick de Waard. 2019.  “Walking Without Awareness.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01846