On Foot in Mecca
When you say, traffic engineering, most of us think of cars and highways and busy big-city intersections. Traffic engineers work with these things, but they also deal with people. Sometimes, people in unexpected places. Like Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.
Every year, Mecca deals with one of the biggest pedestrian traffic jams on the planet. It happens because Mecca is, the, holiest place for Muslims around the world. Devout Muslims try to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. This means that for five days every year the population of Mecca balloons to more than four-million-people, three-million of them pilgrims.
Saudi officials are working with pedestrian traffic engineers to find a way to move the crowds smoothly to and from the sites the pilgrims must visit. They built pedestrian bridges so pilgrims can reach important places without crowding. They turned streets into one-way walkways so pedestrians weren’t fighting others going the other way to and from important shrines. The suggestions seem to help, and they’re still working on it.
Gene Charleton is a science writer at the Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He’s been watching and writing about science and technology for more than 30 years. Engineering Works! was born in 2003 as a two-minute radio show on Texas A&M University’s NPR outlet, KAMU-FM.