Monday, January 19, 2009

Rats prefer Manhattan: an application for biomimicry in urban planning

New research from Tel Aviv University (and reported in Science Daily) finds that cities with grid layouts, like Manhattan, are more rat-friendly than cities with irregular street networks: a gridded system allows rats to cover more territory.

Researchers set up two obstacle courses that followed a grid and non-grid pattern (right, above). The paths the rats took in both courses covers the same distance, but in the grid "city," rats' paths covered much more territory than in the irregular "city."

Quoting from the Science Daily article,
"We've found that routes taken by rats and other members of the animal kingdom tend to converge at attractive landmarks, the same way people are attracted, for example, to the Arc de Triumph in Paris," says Prof. David Eilam from TAU’s Department of Zoology.
The researchers also hope that rat race experiments like this one might be of some use to urban designers as they plan new cities and neighborhoods in the future.

Speaking of rats' love of Manhattan, New York City's Pest Control Services is now indexing their inspection reports on online maps at the new Rat Information Portal, which allows anyone to compare rat inspection data across neighborhoods, community districts, or individual properties. Below, a map of rat inspection results in the Upper East Side. Red parcels indicate properties where inspections found "signs of rats," orange parcels indicate "problem conditions" (such as exposed piles of garbage), and yellow parcels indicate properties that passed their initial inspections:

1 comment:

Andrew Riely said...

I'm not quite sure if this means we should build irregular cities to confound rats or adopt grids because people will find them more convenient! In any case, it's interesting.