Shoppers have a lot to learn from migrating geese

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London, Apr 20 (ANI): Even the most effective shoppers can take a lesson or two from ducks and geese in hopping from one shop to another on a busy high street, say scientists.

A study of pedestrian behaviour in a busy high street has shown that shoppers are inefficient.

Unlike more competent species - such as ducks and geese - which form streamlined groups to increase their velocity, humans trundle along in a way that cuts their average speed between stores by about a fifth.

Our problem is that we fall into U or V-shaped formations so we can chat with our companions, but this slows both our progress and that of people coming the other way, according to the Franco-Swiss study.

We are clearly more concerned with chattering than arriving at our destination - however appealing it might seem, said the study.

The findings imply the need for wider pavements and sophisticated urban planning to enable us to keep moving in crowded shopping streets.

A team of scientists from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, southwest France, worked with academics from Zurich Polytechnic in Switzerland to analyse two groups of pedestrians-the first was filmed in a French square on a weekday, the second in a shopping street, also in France, on a Saturday.

When the density of the crowd increased, groups of two remained side by side, but in groups of three, the formation changed.

The person in the middle hung back, and those on each side moved inwards to form a V-shape.

In groups of four, the two people in the middle both hung back to make a U-shape. When five or more were walking, they broke into sub-groups.

Dr Guy Theraulaz, director of research at the Centre on Animal Cognition at the university, said the formation was designed to ease conversation and eye contact.

"However, the walking efficiency is considerably affected. The configuration makes it difficult to go forward, and forces people coming the other way to operate big avoidance manoeuvres," Times Online quoted the study as saying.

Thus, the average speed of a group of four in a crowd is reduced to just 0.9 metres per second.

The group would get to the next shop more quickly by splitting up or copying migrating geese to form an inverse-V - with a leader at the front and followers fanning out behind, said Theraulaz.

"But the main thing for geese is speed. The main thing for humans is communication," he added. (ANI)

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