Street lighting could be reduced at night, saving energy costs and reducing carbon emissions without increasing crime or accidents, a new report out of the UK has found.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at 14 years of data from 62 local authorities across England and Wales that had implemented a range of street light reduction strategies, including switching lights off permanently, reducing the number of light hours, dimming lights, and replacing traditional orange lamps with energy efficient white light LED lamps.
The researchers found there was no evidence of an association between reduced street lighting and night-time collisions, or between reduced street lighting and increased crime – specifically burglary, theft of or from a vehicle, robbery, violence and sexual assault.
“The study findings suggest that energy saving street lighting adaptations have not increased area level crime in the neighbourhoods studied,” study co-author Professor Shane Johnson said.
“This is very encouraging but it is important to note that it does not mean that this will be the case under all conditions, and so changes to lighting should be managed carefully.”
Many urban planners have noted the occurrence of overlighting in cities.
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However the idea is contentious one, with the researchers also finding in an accompanying study that while reduced lighting had gone largely unnoticed, a lack of street light did make some people feel less safe. Switching off lights was also perceived as representing neglect of an area by the local authority, who were removing a “public good”.
In Sydney, upgrading street lighting became an issue of outrage when in 2013 columnist Miranda Devine claimed City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s “jihad against ‘carbon pollution’” was having serious consequences, stating that the “rape of a Belgian tourist in a dark alley in Potts Point… [was] a warning that environmentally sensitive street lighting will take a terrible human toll”.
Devine’s claim that LED light “doesn’t spread as far, so the area of illumination is smaller” was refuted by the Lord Mayor.