Talking Headways Podcast: The Future of Street Lights

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Clifton Lemon and Steve Lawton of LightPlace Advisors join me this week to talk about how lighting is going to change in cities with the advent of the LED. We learn about what fire and light means to humans and why the street light might become one of the most valuable assets a city has.

Clifton and Steve describe a public health angle as well — how the color temperature affects us and why we should be mindful of how many times cities choose to create lighting that is better for driving and cars than walking and people.

We also get into why brighter might not always mean safer when you’re walking at night, as well as how in-ground lighting can improve traffic management in cities.

So please join us for this “enlightening” episode of the Talking Headways Podcast.  And remember, you can subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

  • I did not listen to the podcast yet but I’ve noticed that the light from sodium vapor lamps refracts horribly off of windshields at a certain angle causing a quick moment of blindness. Often the street lamps are placed at the corner of an intersection right and this phenomenon happens right when I’m looking for pedestrians to the right of the intersection (turning right). I’ve also noticed that this phenomenon DOES NOT happen with LED lighting. Just something I’ve noticed. Look forward to listening!

  • Joe R.

    It’s worth noting that light which is better for driving is also better for cycling. I’ve noted I have limited peripheral vision and little depth perception under sodium vapor lights. This means things like potholes look flat until I’m almost on top of them. Obviously that’s not a good thing, especially since I do 99% of my riding after dark. No streets yet in my area have converted to LED but I look forward to the eventual switch which is supposed to be complete citiwide by the end of 2017. The Long Island Expressway near me is already done but not the service road.

    Besides the advantages of better depth perception, better peripheral vision, and better alertness, more natural lighting like LEDs also has aesthetic advantages. The sodium vapor lights make an area look seedy and run down. Same thing to a lesser extent with other types of low color temperature lighting. Of course, there are issues if you go too far in the other direction. Right now we seem to be standardizing on 4000K to 5000K for LED streetlighting. Incidentally, this is the same range as most stock HID headlights. It also happens to be the typical color temperature range of sunlight. Anyway, we’re on the cusp of a lighting revolution. Eventually we’ll probably do things like have variable light levels, perhaps even motion detectors which turn lights off on side streets unless vehicles are coming.

    Another plus of LED lighting is you can focus 100% of the light where you want it. That means little or no light trespass. It will also mean darker skies in cities where things like the Milky Way might be visible to those who never saw it in their lives. Certainly once LED lighting is installed a lot more stars will be visible which weren’t before.

  • You’ve GOT to mix this louder. I’m sitting right next to my laptop cooking breakfast, with every mixer slide to max and I can barely hear this. My computer’s fan is louder!

  • Now I’m standing on top, directly in front of my computer and can barely hear this. Such a shame.

  • The Overhead Wire

    Andy I’m sorry for the volume issue. I’ve increased it a bit. Hopefully this works better.

  • Low-energy, thoughtfully designed LED lighting in public spaces = awesome. Corporations and governments measuring your feelings in public spaces = horrible. One of the interviewees said he has come to “embrace” this idea, and that he is an “environmentalist.” The technology is a blessing, but the possibility of it enabling mass surveillance should be vigorously opposed. People who put their lives on the line to protect the environment know this. The audio mix sounded great.