Bicycle Network: Good Design Guides
Lighting of paths - see the results
Good lighting of paths reduces the risk of crash in low light conditions and makes people feel safer using the path after dark. A minimum lighting level of 5 Lux is required for paths though higher levels are needed at potential hazards including road crossings. [See end of page for Boroondara Case study.]
What’s the problem?
Paths with inadequate lighting increase the risk of crash in low light conditions as path users have trouble seeing each other; the path itself; and pathside obstacles.
What are the risks?
The major risks from poorly lit paths are:
• crashes of single riders if they misjudge the path alignment or hit an obstacle on the edge of the path or on the path itself such as potholes or a fallen branch
• crashes between path users who cannot see each other clearly in low light conditions
• collisions or close calls between bicycle riders and other path users travelling too close to each other because the path edge cannot be seen or is not defined.
• bike riders missing directional and /or safety signs and so becoming disorientated or being unaware of a signed hazard
• people avoiding the path after dark due to fears of personal safety as they cannot see who else is using the path.
What is the solution?
Provide adequate lighting of paths that are likely to be used after dark. Lighting should meet the requirements of the Austroads Guides – an average of 5 lux, vertical and horizontal, is recommended. The minimum level of 5 lux allows cyclists to follow path markings and read signs. Sometimes this can be provided from spillover lighting from adjacent structures such as urban roads or public thoroughfares but generally only if separated by less than 5 metres. Separate lighting is usually needed for paths that travel through parks or along waterways.
Potential hazards need higher lighting levels. In tunnels less than 10m long the recommended vertical and horizontal lux is 10 while in tunnels greater than 10m long this rises to 20 lux.
If lighting cannot be provided along the whole length of the path then there should at least be adequate lighting of potential hazards such as intersections with roads, underpasses and where the path width is limited or next to a hazard.
In-ground path lighting (where lights are implanted into the path edges) and luminescent linemarking do not constitute path lighting as they do not allow path users to see hazards or each other. They may be useful as an ancillary tool for marking the edges of the path between lit sections where there are no potential hazards.
Motion detector sensors can be used if light-pollution or energy saving is an issue. See the Capital City Trail example.
What do the guidelines say?
The Austroads Guide Part 6A recommends lighting of paths which are likely to carry significant numbers of riders after dark but leaves the decision up to local authorities:
“Where bicycle paths or shared paths carry a substantial number of cyclists during periods of darkness (i.e. dawn, dusk and at night) consideration should be given to the provision of path lighting. The decision to provide lighting is a matter for the relevant authority.”
“The provision of public lighting on paths for cycling depends on the nature of the facility and its expected use at night. In general, lighting of bicycle facilities may be categorized as follows:
- Paths for cycling associated with promenades or some other centre of night-time activity. These are typically by the seaside, a river bank or in a city where a high standard of public lighting is desirable to create an attractive environment.
- Paths for cycling used predominantly for commuting by workers or students. Because it becomes dark relatively early in many Australian and New Zealand cities commuter cyclists have no alternative but to ride during dusk, dawn or hours of darkness. Lighting of these paths may be justified if there is significant usage at night. Conversely the lack of lighting may adversely affect the use of the path at night.
- Recreational paths, many of which are used primarily during daylight hours. The cost of public lighting is generally not justified. Designers should, however, consider whether a proposed path is likely to attract enough night-time use to warrant lighting, at least at locations of increased hazard.”
The Guides provide clear guidance on the lighting levels needed on paths in Parts 6A and 6B (extracts at right). The lighting levels recommended in the Guides are based on the objective of allowing path users to see each other and potential path hazards:
“The overall level of lighting should enable cyclists to see other cyclists, read signs and also enable motorists to see cyclists where the path intersects a road or runs close to a road.” – Part 6B
“The objectives, discussion and issues relating to the lighting of pedestrian paths (Section 6.5) also apply to paths used by cyclists who need to be able to detect hazards such as rough surfaces and obstacles on paths, and also have a sense of personal security.” – Part 6A
“The primary objectives of lighting pedestrian paths are:
- to enable pedestrians to perceive hazards such as unusual or uneven surfaces or obstacles such as steps or street furniture, and to enable them to orientate themselves and find their way about
- to enhance the personal security of pedestrians by enabling them to recognize potential threats from other people in time to take appropriate action.”
“AS/NZS 1158 (AS/NZS 1158.3.1:2005, Pedestrian area (Category P) lighting – Performance and design requirements) provides standards for lighting of urban roads and other public thoroughfares including shared paths”.
The Guide states that spill lighting from roads can provide adequate lighting of an adjacent path:
“Roads which have roadway lighting to the Category V standard of AS/NZS 1158.1.1 will provide sufficiently for on-road bicycle facilities and will have enough surrounding illumination to provide adequate lighting of shared footpaths or bicycle paths located within 3m to 5m of the kerb and on the road side of the lighting poles.”
What do we say about the guidelines?
The Austroads Guides are clear on the level of lighting to provide and when this should be provided. They do, however leave the decision on which paths require lighting up to local jurisdictions.
With the increased popularity of riding, especially commuter cycling in inner metro areas, many paths without adequate lighting are seeing higher night time usage than previously. Many of these high use paths are along routes that serve as recreational paths (e.g. the Main Yarra Trail and Gardiners Creek Trail). Bicycle Network Victoria has reports of bike riders crashing into obstacles on unlit paths on their way home from work at night. Consideration should be given to installing lighting on these existing paths – see examples below.
The design of a lighting system depends on the nature of the area being lit and the surrounding environment. Guidelines produced by VeloQuebec give more detailed recommendations on illumination of urban streets, outer urban situations, intersections, tunnels, etc.. According to these guidelines, busy urban pedestrian areas require 20 lux but 3 to 5 lux is adequate for lower-traffic areas. Intersecting paths and roads require higher levels (between 18 lux and 34 lux) to minimise the risk of accidents. Uniformity of lighting is equally important so that riders are not alternating between brightly lit and contrasting dark areas. The ratio of average illumination to the minimum illumination should be no greater than 6:1 for alleyways and low traffic streets and 3:1 for busier areas. "This 3:1 co-efficient makes it possible to distinguish a face from 20m away."
Providing lighting on paths may encourage more use by the less confident or those more aware of their personal security, especially women and older people.
Any examples - good and bad?
Gardiners Creek Trail, Markham Avenue Reserve, Ashburton
Stand alone solar lighting has been provided for the path. Boroondara Council installed the lighting on this popular commuting and recreational path and decided to use solar lighting due to the ease of installation. The cost of each unit is more than those wired into the electricity grid but installation costs are much less and maintenance costs about the same. Stand alone solar lights have their own solar panels and battery so may enable better locating of light poles in confined corridors.
Shared path alongside Melbourne Zoo
Here the lighting from the adjacent tram line provides lighting of the path. A centre line and edge lining on the path is still required to delineate the path.
Gardiners Creek Trail , Ashburton
Here in-ground solar lights have been provided to help delineate the edge of the path. Note that the lights do not provide illumination of the path itself, pathside objects and signage or people on the path so do not constitute path lighting as such. In-ground lighting and luminescent linemarking are useful as a complement to path lighting away from potential hazards.
Capital City Trail at Bennett St
Path lighting is especially important at potential hazards. Roads intersections are especially important. Here adequate lighting allows path users to clearly see cars and visa versa.
Captial City Trail at Royal Pde underpass
Underpasses and tunnells require a higher level of lighting than open sections of path.
Capital City Trail at McIllwraith St
Until sections of path make it hard to see other path users. Here a person walking dressed in black is nearly invisible against the dark path surface without path lighting. The parallel road lighting is too far away to illuminate the path.
Capital City Trail west of Bennett St
Here the lighting from the adjacent roadway also provides lighting of the path. Note the light pole with the cantilevered support that reaches over the path.
Table 4.5 From Austroads Guide to Road Design - Part 6B Roadside Environments
Further information can be gleaned from the City of Boroondara's Case Study.