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Pedestrian lighting for comfort and safety

Our industry is in the midst of a roadway lighting technology upgrade aimed at improving performance while reducing both energy consumption and operating costs.

With many experts predicting that walkable urban places are the cities of the future (Money), pedestrian-scale lighting may be the next market focus.

“It’s imperative to incorporate lighting that provides a comfortable, safe environment for pedestrians,” said Ken Siderius, marketing manager for outdoor architectural products and controls with Eaton’s lighting division. “As urban planners strive to create more public ‘people spaces’ and experiences for residents and tourists, smart pedestrian lighting design will become more important than ever.”

Pedestrian lighting: the basics

At its core, pedestrian-scale lighting is part of a strong, comprehensive design plan for what Siderius calls people spaces.

“The movement is particularly big on college and medical campuses,” he said. “However, it’s also taking hold in downtown core areas and other high-traffic public spaces.” Established lighting standards for pedestrian sidewalks and other foot traffic areas are beginning to have a greater influence.

Companies like Eaton’s lighting division are responding to the growing needs of a market affected by an upsurge in urban renewal projects. Pedestrian-scale lighting can help cities embellish their streetscapes, attracting tourists and enhancing the pedestrian experience in business districts or key entertainment corridors.

Pedestrian-scale lighting is different from roadway lighting. Pedestrian lighting fixtures have a unique or interesting appearance. Closer to the ground and spaced closely together, pedestrian-scale lighting fixtures become part of the visual language of the space.

“It’s important to consider things like anatomic scale,” said Siderius. “It’s hard for pedestrians to relate to lighting structures designed for large areas, because they’re mounted so high above their heads. This type of lighting is ideal for roadways and parking areas but is not optimal in helping people navigate sidewalks or university campuses after dark. Pedestrian-scale fixtures light their field of view and can help them relate to spaces by enhancing way finding and adding value to the spaces they experience.

“We all want to add value to our environment,” said Siderius. “We want to be reminded of spaces we value. For example, one of the most common elements in urban design is the representation of nature through more organic design elements.”

How LEDs are changing pedestrian lighting

Well-designed LED lighting produces better, more controlled light than alternative sources. LEDs feature advanced optics and can provide quality, controlled lighting appropriate for the space. Cityscapes have the opportunity to reduce dark, potentially unsafe spaces at night. LEDs are more efficient, longer lasting and lower maintenance; therefore, cities and municipalities can more easily afford to illuminate lower traffic areas at a pedestrian-scale.

“Economics dictate the adoption rate of new technologies. LEDs are so much more affordable now that public budgets can accommodate major outdoor lighting retrofits,” said Siderius. “And, thanks to new controls technology, end users can provide lighting in the right amount, at the right time, in places where traditional sources were once unaffordable or too expensive to maintain.”

Historically, one of the most expressed concerns about LEDs is that they can tend to be too bright. But Siderius said his team is tapping into Eaton’s WaveStream™ technology to address that issue in pedestrian-scale lighting.

“We’ve already seen great success with this LED technology in indoor lighting, and we’re achieving a high level of efficacy in outdoor lighting as well. We’re balancing brightness in favor of visibility, reducing glare and addressing the pixelated effect seen with many current lighting fixture optics. Improving pedestrian visibility allows rapid and accurate decisions, better navigation, task completion and identification of risk, all in lower light levels. This creates a more comfortable, secure setting.”

LED light sources also provide a way to select the best color temperature for particular tasks or settings. Pedestrian lighting can be warm yet still have a high color rendering. This is helpful in entertainment districts, for example, where a warm, intimate setting is preferred.

“It’s an extremely flexible, controllable source,” said Siderius. “As an industry, we’re still working to maximize its potential.”

What’s next for pedestrian lighting?

The lighting industry is constantly looking for ways to add value by building new capabilities into the fixtures that light our world. “We’ve created a controllable light source that can be manipulated in many ways,” Siderius said. “Now, with a little imagination, we’re beginning to address long-standing issues, from sky glow to environmental stewardship.

“It’s all moving quickly, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.”