This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 123.
How good is your front bike light? If there is no street lighting – and no bright moon – does it enable you to see hazards and obstructions on the road? Does it pinpoint the potholes? The litter and broken glass? The wheelie bin someone has pushed into the carriageway? For many Cambridge cyclists this is not an issue, as most of the time they are cycling on streets with street lighting. But this may change.
Cambridgeshire County Council is consulting on proposals that would turn off street lights on many roads between midnight and 6am. The consultation (at www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CambridgeshireStreetlightConsultation) says: ‘Street lights on main traffic routes will not be switched off or those where CCTV’s are present or in roads where there is a statutory requirement e.g. traffic calming features or mini roundabouts, or those which support the night time economy in Town or City Centres’. An interactive map at http://my.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/myCambridgeshire.aspx?MapSource=CCC/AllMaps&Layers=NightLightII&tab=mapsshows every streetlight and whether it will be dimmed or turned off. The justification for the proposals is that the county council has to make considerable savings because of the reduction in funding from central government and thinks it can save approximately £272,000 a year from its street lighting energy costs.
The proposals are generating quite a bit of discussion on Cyclescape (http://camcycle.cyclescape.org/threads/1939) and as yet it is not clear that any consensus is emerging. The following are the main points made in the discussion so far.
- Street lighting is necessary for the safety of cyclists, so they can see obstructions.
- Street lighting makes cyclists and pedestrians feel safer.
- Evidence suggests that street lighting does not reduce accidents or prevent crime.
- If streets are not lit and people feel unsafe they are likely to drive instead of walking or cycling.
- Cyclists (and pedestrians) need street lighting far more than motor vehicles do.
- Main routes for cyclists are not the same as main routes for motor traffic (which will continue to be lit).
- If we want the main routes for cyclists lit, how do we define them?
- Cars and other motor vehicles have powerful lights.
- Many cyclists and pedestrians are still making journeys after midnight or need to travel before 6 am.
- If street lights are to be turned off, this should be later than midnight, perhaps 2am.
- The last trains arrive in Cambridge after midnight and the first trains leave before 6am.
- Perhaps the time street lights are turned off should be different on Fridays and Saturdays as more people are out late then.
- Too much street lighting can cause glare and affect night vision.
- Street lighting interferes with people’s sleep and affects their health, when it shines in through their windows.
- Street lighting wastes energy.
- Dimming ALL street lights might mean that none need turning off.
- The county should be installing the most energy-efficient modern street lighting.
- There are different sorts of lights – incandescent, fluorescent, metal halide, LED – and how much light they emit and how much energy they use varies.
- How about street lights that turn on – or brighten – when they detect an approaching cyclist or pedestrian? The technology exists.
- Smart lighting that directs light where it is needed creates a balance between safety and starlight.
- It is up to cyclists to ensure their lights are good enough for cycling where there is no street lighting.
Please join the discussion and let us have your views. This will help us formulate a response to the consultation. Perhaps we can reach agreement on what street lighting is appropriate for different parts of the city and county.