See and Be Seen, After Dark: Why Lighting Pedestrian Crossings Matters
Virtually every time we leave our homes, we interact with pedestrian crossings. Whether on foot, cycling, driving or at the bus stop, it’s a rare urban journey that does not involve traversing at least one road. Yet this everyday occurrence is also a risky one: in the EU, there are 42 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, and that’s on the continent with the safest roads in the world. As a comparison, the world average lies at more than 180 road deaths per million inhabitants.
These figures are particularly grim when we consider that pedestrians represented 20% of all road fatalities in the EU in 2018. This proportion is higher than for other vulnerable road users, namely 9% for cyclists, 3% for mopeds and 15% for motorcycles. Roads are especially dangerous for children and older people: in the EU, 50% of pedestrian fatalities in 2018 were senior citizens.
All this can paint a depressing picture. But there is hope: policymakers, urban planners, citizens and companies are all working together to make roads safer for everyone. One area where the right lighting can make a big difference is pedestrian crossings.
Crystal Clear, for Everyone
Effective lighting for pedestrian crossings needs to do three things. Firstly, ensure the crossing is highly visible and distinguishable from the surrounding area. Next, it needs to give drivers clear visibility of pedestrians approaching and using the crossing. And finally, lighting should minimise glare for drivers. Of course, our lighting saves energy, is sustainably manufactured and looks aesthetically pleasing, as well. But let’s discuss the basics first.
Schréder has a long history of developing specific optics to light pedestrian crossings to ensure safety for both motorists and pedestrians to help them share the public space in a safer manner. It comes down to providing a lighting solution that has a high vertical illuminance on the pedestrian, so they are clearly visible from the driver’s position, and horizontal illuminance on the pedestrian crossing for people crossing the road.
Pedestrian crossings are special areas, where different user priorities and rules of the road apply, and need to be clearly marked as such. The lighting should provide a clear contrast between the regular road lighting and the crossing, with clearly defined edges.
New Crossings for an Old Capital
The Polish capital of Warsaw is a jewel of central Europe, with its Old Town on the UNESCO World Heritage List and stunning views across the Vistula River. It’s the perfect city to explore on foot, which obviously requires crossing a lot of roads.
In 2016, the city’s Municipal Roads Management Board carried out a Road Safety Audit in 12 districts across Warsaw, and went on to upgrade nearly 4,000 pedestrian crossings with Schréder luminaires equipped with specific optics to improve safety for citizens and tourists alike. The city opted for cool white LEDs (5,700K) to replace the outdated orange sodium lamps and mounted the luminaires on six-metre high poles.
The new lighting is helping people to negotiate the city at night - making exploring the city’s fantastic nightlife even more attractive - and enabling them to cross roads comfortably, efficiently and safely. The lighting overhaul has been so successful that Warsaw was one of three finalists for the 2022 EU Urban Road Safety Award.
Different Times, Different Rules
CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, has not set any strict rules for lighting pedestrian crossings; the illumination criteria and grids for calculating how to light them vary across Europe and beyond. In my long experience of lighting pedestrian crossings, Italy and Poland have particularly demanding calculation grids, whereas Belgium, Spain and France, for example, have "simpler" calculation grids, but every nation has the same goal: safer roads for all users. Here at Schréder, we have produced a guide to help planners navigate some of the typical issues they face when lighting pedestrian crossings.
Another challenge is that risks related to crossing the road are not the same throughout the day. There is a pronounced morning and evening peak, compared to overall road fatalities, as people travel to and from home, work and school. Furthermore, there is a seasonal element, with up to two times more pedestrians getting killed on the road in the winter months than during the months of March to June.
The EU is working to improve things, and has released funding as part of its Smart and Sustainable mobility strategy to improve safety on roads, with the aim of getting as close as possible to “Vision Zero” (zero fatalities on the road) by 2050. They also have a target of reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries from road accidents by 50% between now and 2030.
Green Energy for a Green Lung
The Spanish city of Guadalajara is 60km from Madrid and draws visitors from around the world with its historical sites and renaissance architecture. With a population of more than 90,000 residents that increases significantly during tourist season, it’s a city that has a lot of people out walking at night, especially in the hot months.
The city wanted to make pedestrian crossings more visible in busy areas, around schools, and across the “green lung,” a path frequently used by residents and tourists for walking, cycling, roller blading and other sports. They decided to achieve this by upgrading the lighting and improving safety; in addition they required a low total cost of ownership.
For the busiest pedestrian crossings in the city, the street lights were replaced by 30 NEOS LED luminaires. They deliver a bright white light with high colour rendition so drivers can see people clearly; they’ve also improved the quality of the night-time pedestrian environment while enabling the city to maximise operational efficiencies and energy savings.
Cities like Guadalajara, Warsaw and Portimão have invested in making their pedestrian crossings safer for everyone. It’s a small change that makes a big difference: get in touch with my colleagues in your location to see what we could do to make using your roads a safer and more pleasant experience.
About the writer
István's 25-year career spans sales, marketing, product development and lighting education. With his passion for understanding customer’s needs, he has acquired a depth and breadth of experience in road and urban lighting across Europe. He joined Schréder in 2016 and now drives product development in road lighting with cutting-edge technology to anticipate and address our customers challenges.
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