Light distribution in dynamic street lighting : two experimental studies on its effects on perceived safety, prospect, concealment, and escape

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The relationship between light and perceived safety at night is intuitively strong, yet theoretically and empirically its workings are largely unknown. Intelligent dynamic road lighting, which continuously adapts to the presence and behavior of users, can light the street only when and where it is needed. As such, it offers a solution to the energy waste and luminous pollution associated with conventional road lighting. With this innovation, however, new questions emerge about the effect of lighting on perceived safety. We need to consider not only how much lighting pedestrians need to feel safe, but also which parts of the street should be lit. In two experiments, we investigated the effect of different lightdistributions on perceived safety, and explored mediation by people's appraisal of three safety-related cues suggested in the literature: prospect (having an overview), escape (perceived escape possibilities), and refuge/concealment (perceived hiding places for offenders). Both experiments, one with stationary and one with walking participants, demonstrated that people prefer having light in their own immediate surroundings rather than on the road that lies ahead. This could be explained, partially, by changes in prospect, escape, and concealment. Against expectations, prospect was higher with lightingdistributions in which participants' immediate surroundings, but not the more distant parts of the road, were most strongly lit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-352
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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