Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Roadway lighting. Source: - Annie Lux

Source: Living Streets Page 7-18 Appropriate quality and placement of lighting can enhance an environment as well as increase comfort and safety.
Source: Living Streets Page 7-18




Lighting and Illumination

Appropriate quality and placement of lighting can enhance an environment as well as increase comfort and safety. Pedestrians often assume that motorists can see them at night; they are deceived by their own ability to see the oncoming headlights. Without sufficient overhead lighting, motorists may not be able to see pedestrians in time to stop.

In commercial areas with nighttime pedestrian activity, streetlights and building lights can enhance the ambiance of the area and the visibility of pedestrians by motorists. It is best to place streetlights along both sides of arterial streets and to provide a consistent level of lighting along a roadway. Nighttime pedestrian crossing areas may be supplemented with brighter or additional lighting. This includes lighting pedestrian crosswalks and approaches to the crosswalks.

In the past, most crosswalks had a single luminaire placed directly over the crosswalk. This positioning did not adequately illuminate the pedestrian for the approaching motorist. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that 20 lx was necessary for motorists to detect a pedestrian in the crosswalk. To achieve 20 lx, the luminaire should be placed 10 feet from the crosswalk, in between the approaching vehicles and the crosswalk. At intersections, the luminaires should also be placed before the crosswalk on the approach into the intersection. This differs from traditional placement of luminaires over the actual intersection.13

In commercial areas or in downtown areas, specialty pedestrian-level lighting may be placed over the sidewalks to improve pedestrian comfort, security, and safety. Well-lit pedestrian areas make people walking through the area feel safer.


Roadway lighting has often focused on the needs of the motorist and not necessarily the safety of the pedestrian. However, it is important to consider lighting that illuminates pedestrian crosswalks and reduces glare to motorists. Of fatal pedestrian crashes, 58.6 percent occur at night on unlighted roads and 25.3 percent occur at night on lighted roads.13 Adequate roadway lighting enhances the safety of all roadway users, while pedestrian-scale lighting improves nighttime security and enhances commercial districts.


• Ensure that pedestrian walkways and crosswalks are well lit.
• Install lighting on both sides of wide streets and streets in commercial districts.
• Use uniform lighting levels.

Estimated Cost

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
In-pavement Lighting

The cost range for in-pavement lights is very broad, based on manufacturer differences, roadway widths, and project-specific factors. Usually, in-pavement lights are installed as a system, which is the reason the total cost is included here, as opposed to an individual light cost. Also, though not included above, average approximate underpass lighting costs can range from $350 to $3,400 each, and crosswalk lighting can range from approximately $10,750 to $42,000 per crosswalk.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of lighting and illumination can be found here.

Case Studies

Clemson, SC
Grand Junction, CO
Eureka, CA
Ithaca, New York
Fort Plain, NY
Tempe, AZ
University Place, WA
Phoenix, Arizona
Shoreline, Washington
Bellevue, WA
Montgomery County, Maryland
Santa Monica, CA
Asheville, NC
Eureka, California
Englewood, Ohio
San Francisco, California
Cambridge, Massachusetts