Outdoor Lighting Policy - Part Three: Safety

A night time photo of Lake Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Bridge, Acton and Regatta Point.
A night time photo of Lake Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Bridge, Acton and Regatta Point.

Human vision

The human eye responds to different light levels by adjusting the iris to regulate the amount of light transferred to the retina through the pupil. This process and the time it takes for our eyes to adjust, affects our ability to perceive the detail of our environment. At night, the level of light, the contrast between various objects or light sources, and the time it takes our to eyes respond to changes (or different levels) in light, affect our ability to see. The impact of artificial light on our ability to see varies between individuals according to differences in age and vision capability. At low light levels, it is difficult to perceive colours accurately.


Glare is experienced where a light source creates visual discomfort or reduces human vision. This can be a result of light intensity, contrast or change in light level that is too rapid for the eye to adapt. Discomfort glare is defined as making vision uncomfortable or navigation difficult. Disability glare is when it is difficult for people to perceive their environment accurately or navigate it safely. The threshold between discomfort and disability glare varies according to differences in age and vision capability. Beyond the impacts on human vision, glare is also a form of light pollution that represents wasted energy.

Safety and security

The safety of people walking, cycling and vehicular road users, is a fundamental concern in the design of all outdoor lighting. However the provision alone of outdoor lighting may not fully meet the community's expectations of safety. The ability of people to see and be seen at night is affected by many factors such as lighting intensity, direction, uniformity, glare, and colour rendition.

The perceived and actual level of security within an area is strongly characterised by lighting. The intensity, angle and distribution of lighting affect our ability to perceive our surroundings which is important in creating secure environments.


Policy Objective 3: Lighting must provide a safe night time environment for residents of, and visitors to the National Capital.

Strategies and requirements

Strategy 3a) Maintain a well-connected movement network of public paths, roads and spaces.

Design requirements:

  • Install and maintain lighting throughout the network of pedestrian and cycling paths and formally-recognised public spaces in the Central National Area.
  • Install and maintain lighting on all public roads and car parks in accordance with the volumes and patterns of activity and their role within Canberra's transport network.
  • Select light poles and locations that minimise the risk of injury for people travelling on paths or roads.

Strategy 3b) Ensure Australian Standards for illumination are met as a minimum.

Design requirements:

  • Demonstrate compliance of lighting design proposals with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1158 - Lighting for Roads and Public Spaces and the suitability of the proposed lighting category for the intended application.
  • Demonstrate compliance of lighting design with other relevant Australian Standards relating to the installation and operation of outdoor lighting.  Where an inconsistency arises between this policy and any Australian Standard, this policy prevails.

Strategy 3c) Effectively manage glare.

Design requirements:

  • Select lamps of the lowest required intensity.
  • Select light fittings and optical systems that shield light from being directed sideways or upwards.
  • Locate light sources beyond the typical field of view for people in any given area, through the location and scale of light poles and fittings.
  • Minimise any sources of light spill or glare beyond the intended area to be lit.

Strategy 3d) Create integrated lighting designs that enable the human eye to adapt to changes in light levels.

Design requirements:

  • Achieve a high degree of uniformity in illumination levels along pathways and roads.
  • Install transitionary lighting treatments between areas of contrasting illumination that accommodate the human eye's capacity to adapt to changes in light levels.