The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

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Colin Henshaw
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The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

Post by Colin Henshaw »

THE USE AND ABUSE OF STREET LIGHTING

It should be pointed out that:

a) Street lighting does not reduce crime. It has the effect of making people behave at night more as they would do during the day, so areas that are intensively lit will have a higher crime rate. Does it come as any surprise, then, that city centres and housing estates have the highest crime rates?

b) There are alternative methods of making streets safer at night for road users - reflective signs, cats' eyes, baffles of motorway central reservations etc. Street lighting should only be used as a last resort.

c) It is a waste of energy, and therefore money. However the energy is produced, millions of street lights world-wide are cooking the atmosphere, creating urban heat-engines, thereby contributing to global warming and no doubt being a major contributor to it. With government concerns about energy wastage and global warming now becoming a priority, it makes sense that the least essential offender should be cut back drastically. Any savings made can be re-deployed into health, education and welfare.

d) Street lighting is destructive to the environment. Studies have shown in Switzerland and elsewhere that street lights kill upwards on 150 insects per night. Over the last forty years as street lighting has expanded world wide, it has been observed that there has been a decline in the number of common insect species, including diurnal species. These are affected because in intensely lit areas they are tricked into thinking it is daylight. Insects buzz around lights until they drop, after which they are too tired to feed or to procreate.

e) The effect on insects has a concomitant effect on higher order consumers, such as amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. Insects are also important as pollinators, so any reduction in their numbers will in turn have a concomitant effect on plant diversity, further exacerbating the decline in insects and other animals. It is known to affect migration patterns in birds, and the behaviour of organisms in the littoral zone adjoining beachfronts.

f) Street lighting has been shown to disturb normal circadian rhythms in humans and other animals, affecting melatonin secretion that has been implicated in prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

All of this is happening now BECAUSE OF STREET LIGHTING. Those who manufacture and impose street lighting on the community should be aware that they are responsible for these changes that are taking place. Therefore the following guidelines are recommended in order to reverse the trends that have been described above.

1) All night lighting should only be confined to urban areas where there is a recognised safety and security risk.

2) It should only be applied in suburban areas on major thoroughfares.

3) On minor roads in suburban areas street lighting should be subject to an 11.00 p.m. curfew and not switched on again till the following night.

4) Where street lighting is deemed necessary, full cut-off lamps or better should be employed. It should be applied sparingly on a needs must basis: where needed, when needed, and in the correct amounts.

5) The use lamps that are not full cut-off should be made illegal, along with their manufacture and their export. Their use overseas will be abused and pristine dark sky habitats abroad will be destroyed.

6) No member of the community should be forced to live with street lighting outside their property. If they request that it be removed, then those responsible are duty bound to remove it, and not parrot out irrelevant concerns about road safety or security. If such cases are ignored, either by neighbours or the local authority, the householder is not being respected and his/her right to darkness is being violated. [/b][/b]
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Re: The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

Post by joe »

Colin Henshaw wrote: It should be pointed out that:

a) Street lighting does not reduce crime. It has the effect of making people behave at night more as they would do during the day, so areas that are intensively lit will have a higher crime rate. Does it come as any surprise, then, that city centres and housing estates have the highest crime rates?
I would love to believe this, Colin, but is it really true? Can you point me to some reliable report(s) that shows this to be the case rather than the opposite which is what I hear so often? Where are the reports about crime rates falling after lights are switched off? Aren't crime rates higher in city centres and estates simply because that's where most people are?
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Vega
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Post by Vega »

I agree. I only ever hear these 'reports' from people interested in Astronomy. Don't get me wrong, I wish there could be more switch off's and investment in cut off street lighting, but the simple truth is it ain't in the local council's interests (because its not demanded by the majority, I they dont have endless budgets).

Matt
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Colin Henshaw
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The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

Post by Colin Henshaw »

Joe,

Many thanks for your message.

There is plenty of evidence now for the fact the street lighting does not reduce crime. In a recent power failure in aukland, New Zealand, the police chief commented that criminality dropped almost to zero.

My own personal experience of Dhaka in Bangladesh. While living there I experienced as may as two power failures every night, but criminality was low. I walked round the streets there at night quite safely, yet this is a densely populated country where abject poverty and deprivation is commonplace.

There is also the Chicago Alley Project, where two demograohically similar areas were compared. One had few "improvements" in street lighting, while the other was upgraded significantly. Crimes rates increased substatially in the latter.
Hutton S. and Morrow, E., The Chicago Alley Lighting Project, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, 2000. http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf ... roject.pdf

More recently, Essex County Council re-introduced curfews on lighting in some areas. It was observed that crime was sigificantly reduced. Hopefully this will now be more generally adopted nationwide.
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Post by A »

Hi Colin

I can only go on my own personal experience so here goes.
I live and work in a rural environment, with very little, or even no street lighting. All is fine during the summer months, then when the clocks are turned back it all kicks off.
For around 5 months a year, people's lives are being made a misery, where I am. The crime rate increases in the dark villages around here. The response from the police was that we should install more external lights and CCTV cameras to our property.
Talking to people around here, you also start to get a picture of how many crimes actually happen and dont get reported to the police.

"Therefore the following guidelines are recommended in order to reverse the trends that have been described above".
Are these your own recommendations Colin, or those of a group, or organisation?
RL Astro
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Post by RL Astro »

I can't give any personal experiences here (not had any thankfully) but statistics show that the majority of house burglaries happen between 2 and 4pm. They do it in broad daylight so lighting the night won't stop them.
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Post by Colin Henshaw »

A,

They are my own recommendations based on personal experience. The anecdotal evidence I have gleaned from others who have lived in dark rural villages, is that once street lighting has been installed, crime rates increase. Most crime occurs in daylight ergo criminals need light. Street lighting encourages people to behave at night more as they would during the day, so crime rates can be expected to rise.

Furthermore, as astronomers we should be doing everything in our power to keep our rural areas dark. Adding more and brighter lighting is not the answer. Downward pointing motion operated lighting may help, as may some new types of alarm system.

Light at night is very damaging to the environment, so it is totally inappropriate in a rural area.

The village of Swanton Abbott in Norfolk voted recently not to have street lighting installed in their village, and that should stand out as an example to us all.

I strongly urge you to consult www.lightpollution.org.uk
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Post by Vega »

I hate to say it, but we are fighting a loosing battle in whats becoming an evermore 24 hour society. :cry:

Matt
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Colin Henshaw
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The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

Post by Colin Henshaw »

Matt,

If we don't stand up and be counted, then yes, it will be a losing battle.

The Campaign for Dark Skies is trying to redress these issues.

Light Pollution and the twenty-four hour day is a serious environmental issue with ramifications that go way and beyond astronomy.

Thousands of cities worldwide are cooking the atmosphere each night with street lighting. This is inevitably going to have an effect. Something must be done before the environment pays us back with our own coin, and with compounded interest.
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Post by Davej »

Hi,
My council has recently replaced a couple of street lights near my house, they are brilliant, I can read a newspaper in my living room at night without a light on ... :evil:
At the back there is a new one to the left of my garden that completely washes out Andromeda, again.... :evil:
My solution is to put my scope in the car and drive to a dark site a short distance away. Things haven"t changed, as a youngster I used to put my dads 10x50"s in my saddlebag and bike it down one of the dark country lanes (learned a lot about the sky in those days).
I know it"s not an ideal solution for imaging but for observing it"s the best option for me. I can still do a fair bit of observing from my back garden it"s just around the NE part thats a pain (just have to be patient and wait for the objects to come round to a more favourable position)
ATB
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Vega
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Re: The Use and Abuse of Street Lighting

Post by Vega »

Colin Henshaw wrote:Matt,

If we don't stand up and be counted, then yes, it will be a losing battle.

The Campaign for Dark Skies is trying to redress these issues.

Light Pollution and the twenty-four hour day is a serious environmental issue with ramifications that go way and beyond astronomy.

Thousands of cities worldwide are cooking the atmosphere each night with street lighting. This is inevitably going to have an effect. Something must be done before the environment pays us back with our own coin, and with compounded interest.
I see your point and the CfDS do a wonderful job. However at the end of the day, they can only advise and campaign. Local Council's and the government are the only bodies that have the power to make significant changes. These two bodies (occasionally) listen to the 'majority' and unfortunatly the majority of voters do not care about light pollution over the (suppoesed) befnefits of street lighting :cry: So on the upside, all we have to do is get over half the Country to buy a scope and get well in to astronomy :? .

Over the last few years, there has been the opportunity to play the 'energy saving card' alongside the LP argument which has thankfully worked on occasion with one or two Council's actually doing street light turn off's (for no other reason than energy and money saving, trust me!). The best compromise are investing in better designed, 'cut off' street lights, but no Council is gonna rip up and replace their street lights just for energy saving and LP reasons (it costs too much for their already under funded budgets). Our only hope is that energy prices keep on soaring for another decade or so thereby forcing Council's to really take the plunge.

Matt
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Post by A »

Colin Henshaw wrote:A,

They are my own recommendations based on personal experience. The anecdotal evidence I have gleaned from others who have lived in dark rural villages, is that once street lighting has been installed, crime rates increase. Most crime occurs in daylight ergo criminals need light. Street lighting encourages people to behave at night more as they would during the day, so crime rates can be expected to rise.

I strongly urge you to consult www.lightpollution.org.uk
Hi Colin

Thank you for the link, I've seen it before as I've been involved with the CfDS. I also go and knock on the door when I see people installing more security lighting around the villages.

"The anecdotal evidence I have gleaned from others who have lived in dark rural villages, is that once street lighting has been installed, crime rates increase."

This is totally the opposite to the findings of the parish council in our rural area. Based on reported crime and un-reported crime that we get the feed back on, We find that very little crime occurs during the daylight hours, but once the dark evenings arrive we find the rates start to rocket.
With the return of lighter months, the crime rates drop.
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Post by Davej »

RL Astro wrote:I can't give any personal experiences here (not had any thankfully) but statistics show that the majority of house burglaries happen between 2 and 4pm. They do it in broad daylight so lighting the night won't stop them.
Hi Ross,
Don"t know if this is relevant but your quote about daytime burglaries brings this little story to mind that I can"t forget.
One of my neibours (where I used to live) was sat in his front room watching TV in the middle of the afternoon. He has got a postage stamp of a front garden with a three foot high wall at the far side to seperate his garden from the pavement. His car is parked at the side of the road in full view of him (bearing in mind it couldn"t have been more than six metres away). Later on in the afternoon he goes out to his car to find it stood on housebricks with the wheel nuts from his precious alloys all neatly lined up along the edge of the pavement ... broad daylight.

ATB
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Post by joe »

Thanks, Colin, for the links. I'm really trying to convince myself that turning lights out reduces crime but I'm struggling. And if I'm struggling then it'll be hard to convince others of the non-amateur astronomy variety. I guess I'm too used to urban living and can't relate to dark, rural villages where I certainly believe lighting should not be increased further. I'm certainly sure that urban lighting can be reduced through better designed lights. Hopefully the environmental lobby will have an influence in the meantime.
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Post by A »

joe wrote:Thanks, Colin, for the links. I'm really trying to convince myself that turning lights out reduces crime but I'm struggling. And if I'm struggling then it'll be hard to convince others of the non-amateur astronomy variety. .
Hi Joe

Yes, that is the problem. People in our village have had criminal damage running into many thousands of pounds done to their property.
When that happens, they are very reluctant to switch off their newly installed security measures.
What we have found is that the people doing the crimes go and target the darker unlit parts of the village once lights have been up around peoples property.
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