uCrowds' role in large-scale events

As one of the biggest cycling events of the year, La Vuelta Holanda has come to an end; we are proud that uCrowds contributed to the safety of the event. The peloton passed through the Utrecht, Den Bosch, and Breda, attracting more than half a million cycling enthusiasts and supporters. During the opening of the race in Utrecht, peak crowds were present with around 300.000 visitors on the city’s narrow streets. Efficient and reliable crowd management, therefore, was a must. But how do you ensure that all visitors can readily move through the city and enjoy the event safely? This was possible through the unique collaboration with main contractor Movares, which examined the mobility, accessibility, parking, and capacity for visitors who come by car, bicycle, public transport, or on foot. For the proper handling of the pedestrians during the event, uCrowds' #crowdsimulation software, SimCrowds, was used.

We have devised a model that consists of simulating five different levels of human movements, ranging from decision taking to local movement. With this, we try to capture human behaviour in a computer model. This software helps organizers to visualize a large influx of visitors. ‘We first made a digital copy of the event, which is, in essence, a 3D digital twin model of the city. In the preparatory phase, our partner requested the necessary information from the municipality, such as who the target groups are, what their main routes are, and which means of transport they use. Moreover, they also received key information from the organization of the Vuelta, so that we can more accurately transcribe the profile of the visitors. Next, they took all the entry and exit points to the city into consideration, as well as the streets the crowds would have to cross and how busy it is. Then, all the data was entered into the simulation and gain insight into the global route. Simulating the crowd flow on this route many times faster than real-time aids the identification of possible bottlenecks, collisions, congestions, and other dangerous situations in a short amount of time.

As this process is done prior to the event, organizers can take measures to optimize the event’s security in advance. uCrowds’ experience from working on previous cycling races also proved to be invaluable. ‘During the Tour de France in 2015, we saw that certain areas would be too crowded, so we were able to support the decision-making process of the organization in advance by setting up one-way traffic areas, placing extra pedestrian bridges across the canal, and replacing fencing. We have also conducted research in the run-up to the cancelled Vuelta 2020, the results of which have been revisited and used in practice this year.

In addition to playing a pivotal role in ensuring the safety during prominent events such as the Vuelta, the Tour de France, and the Four Day Marches in Nijmegen, uCrowds aims to expand the possibilities of the software by making simulations of other mobilities, such as cyclists, motorbikes or car traffic.

This fantastic event (and uCrowds’ role in it) would not have been possible without the continuous and exhaustive support of Cor Jansen, director Utrecht Marketing, and Klaas Verschuure, previous city councilor Economic affairs. Hope to see you next year for #vuelta2023.

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