VHB Promotes New FHWA Pedestrian Lighting Primer

This resource guides transportation practitioners through the pedestrian lighting design process.

December 12, 2022

A tablet on a table displaying the Pedestrian Lighting Primer report cover.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Safety approached VHB to produce the new Pedestrian Lighting Primer, published earlier this year. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), over 75 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes occur during periods of darkness, which are also typically when less vehicles are on the road. Effective pedestrian-scale lighting not only improves a pedestrian’s ability to see their own surroundings and detect possible hazards but also improves a driver’s ability to see pedestrians.

“Crash data continues to illustrate the safety issues that exist in dark conditions, particularly related to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users,” said Michael Dunn, an author of the primer and Transportation Engineer at VHB. “It is crucial for safety practitioners to understand the effects of lighting for pedestrian safety and for lighting practitioners to understand how to effectively implement pedestrian-scale lighting.”  

The 55-page primer provides practitioners with background on pedestrian safety in dark conditions and the potential benefits of lighting for both pedestrian safety and security. It then presents a five-step process for lighting design, ranging from assessment of lighting needs to selection of design criteria, selection of equipment, determination of control strategy, and finally design and verification. The primer concludes with an example scenario using the process in a real-world project application. The primer aligns with FHWA's Safe System approach to reduce fatalities and serious injury for all road users by proactively implementing proven safety countermeasures.

“Effective lighting for pedestrians can have many benefits, including reducing nighttime crashes, improving both real and perceived personal security, encouraging increased physical activity, and even spurring economic activity,” said Michael. “It can benefit school-age children, wheelchair users, transit riders, even motorists. Remember, everyone is a pedestrian at some point in their trip.”

Later this month, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center will host a webinar on the issue of darkness and pedestrian safety. Speakers include Dr. Rebecca Sanders from Safe Streets Research and Consulting; Michael Dunn and Matt Stygles from VHB, authors of the primer; and Brandon Summers, Scott Kocher, and Zachary Lauritzen from Oregon Walks. The webinar will take place over Zoom on Tuesday, December 20th, from 2:00-3:30pm EST.

View the webinar's webpage for more information and to register, or access the full Pedestrian Lighting Primer on FHWA’s website.