28 May 2020

Lighting research supporting walking and cycling after dark

Lighting research led by Steve Fotios and Jim Uttley from Sheffield University’s Lighting Research Group targets lighting for walking and cycling after dark.

Cyclists in a city

During the period of restricted mobility and social interaction more people are walking and cycling. The UK government appears to be taking advantage of this and is supporting infrastructure improvements to support walking and cycling after travel restrictions are lifted. Encouraging people to walk or cycle rather than to drive, or not to leave the house at all, has major benefits for the whole population, including reduction in air pollution and congestion (fewer motorised vehicles) and improved personal health through physical activity.

Due to the seasonal change in times of sunrise and sunset, some journeys may be made after dark. One response to Covid-19 is a proposal to stagger the working day which may lead to more commuting taking place in hours of darkness. Research led by Steve Fotios and Jim Uttley from Sheffield University’s Lighting Research Group has targeted lighting for walking and cycling after dark. Good lighting gives people the reassurance to walk or cycle – they think it will be safe. We have demonstrated this through qualitative research (stated preferences) and by counting travel flows under different lighting conditions (revealed preferences). Good lighting can make it safer to walk or cycle – they are better able to see potential hazards. We have demonstrated this by testing the effect of changes in lighting on the key tasks of pedestrians and cyclists, as established using mobile eye tracking. We have used these findings to revise the guidance and technical reports issued by national and international bodies for lighting.

Our latest publication shows the association between the brightness of road lighting and cycling rates.

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