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Byron Mayor’s energy saving light-bulb moment: turn off the street lights

Paul Bibby

Byron Mayor Simon Richardson has come up with a novel way of reducing energy use in the Shire – turn off the street lights.

In a motion to this Thursday’s full council meeting, Cr Richardson wants Council staff to investigate the ‘implications an intricacies of turning off residential street lights’.

‘Of all the energy-saving tips and house cost saving tips out there, probably the one most often repeated is to turn off the lights when you leave a room,’ Cr Richardson says in his written comments accompanying the motion.

‘Our streets also contribute to this needless use of light – as all along our streets our streetlights stay on all night long, even when no one is on the street.’

He also urges locals to consider the ‘bigger picture’, namely that: ‘we humans, and the other species within the natural environment, are connected to the night sky’.

‘The increased and widespread use of artificial light at night is impairing our view of the universe,’ he says.

Cr Richardson proposes two possible solutions to the problem: 1, replacing old High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lightbulbs with new, energy-efficient Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs), and 2, either turning the lights out entirely during the latter part of the night when fewer people are around or using sensor systems to only provide light when a pedestrian or car requires it.

He also sought to address the seemingly obvious safety concerns that result from such a proposal, drawing on research from the somewhat unusually titled London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

‘It seems logical to think that more people would be hit by cars and crime would rocket, if lights were turned off, but in a study looking into the public health implications of turning the lights out to save local authorities money, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found something quite surprising,’ he says.

Dr. Phil Edwards, who co-authored the study, told IFLScience:

‘We’ve got data on something like 20,000 kilometers [12,400 miles] of road, from 62 local authorities. And we have information on road traffic collisions and crime. So our analysis has got a lot of data, and we found no evidence for an increase in road traffic casualties or for crime at an area level – which wasn’t what we were expecting at all,’.

Cr Richardson’s motion is the first cab off the (perhaps soon to be unlit) rank at this Thursday’s meeting.


22 responses to “Byron Mayor’s energy saving light-bulb moment: turn off the street lights”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Have you noticed that to walk in a public place, no shoes, in bare feet and in pants with holes in them and a shirt that is dirty and you are unshaven, that you are treated differently than if you were immaculately dressed in a suit and tie? Have you noticed that?
    The same with a town. Turn the lights off and it signals to the rest of Australia that Byron is broke, just about on its knees economically and can’t afford electricity and “Oh boy, don’t drink the water.”
    It is sure to cut the local tourist industry numbers in half. Who would want to come here?
    People go to places that are economically prosperous.

    • StBrian says:

      You forgot Dark-Sky Tourism. People are growing weary of not having Darkness at Nighttime. They want to be able to see the stars without the scrouge of Light Pollution permeated into every aspect of the sacred nighttime environment. They want a break from City Life, from the Suburbs, where there are all of these new Excessively Bright LEDs going up everywhere.

  2. alex says:

    Some of the most beautiful – many overrun with tourists – places have no street lights. Simon is absolutely right, we are connected to the sky and Byron, far from being ‘broke’ is one of the increasingly rare, privileged places in the world where one can see the stars, the milky way.. This can only draw more people over time, if that’s the above commenter’s somewhat cringing and possibly hip-pocket concern.
    There is every reason to follow through on this initiative. Besides, the proposal is regarding residential areas – where people sleep and ideally look out their windows at night, where animals benefit from the natural darkness. No one is suggesting Jonson Street be thrown into darkness.

  3. Rossco Phillips says:

    The risks of LED lights has been the focus of a 282 page study by French Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health and Safety issued in 2010. They are more damaging to the eyes of the young, particularly the blue kind, like I get blinded by as new autos drive toward me. LED’s are NOT the way to go. You should do your homework, Simon, before you try to foist your ‘inspirational’ ideas upon us, like the evil Byron By-pass.

  4. angie says:

    great idea!

  5. John says:

    I dont know about residential areas but we need to light up the centre of our towns, villages and parks. Personally I find walking the main street of Federal in pitch black at 7pm to go to the general store, past a heap of closed food places that would like to be open but cant due to regulations to be crazy. Our villages should be alive at night, not overdeveloped in any way, but open for life to happen.

    We are deprived of some basic joys of village life in this country. Go to any village in europe and you will see people on the street at night in summer enjoying their life, perhaps having a drink or sitting in a courtyard or a park, playing a game, generally being in society. Having some light helps. Allow cafes to open at night, allow music, encourage people out of their houses.

    • Jon says:

      The only people to rejoice will be the scoundrels and rapists who seem to abound these days, hiding behind trees awaiting victims.

  6. Robin says:

    Richardson’s ideas are excellent! Cape
    Byron lighthouse went LED only a few years ago.
    Here is the abstract from the Mayors reference & note the author’s observation that…”reductions went unnoticed”.

    Abstract:
    Financial and carbon reduction incentives have prompted many local authorities to reduce street lighting at night.
    Debate on the public health implications has centred on road accidents, fear of crime and putative health gains from reduced exposure to artificial light. However, little is known about public views of the relationship between reduced street lighting and health.
    We undertook a rapid appraisal in eight areas of England and Wales using ethnographic data, a household survey and documentary sources.

    Public concern focused on road safety, fear of crime, mobility and seeing the night sky but, for the majority in areas with interventions, reductions went unnoticed.

    However, more private concerns tapped into deep-seated anxieties about darkness, modernity ‘going backwards’, and local governance.
    Pathways linking lighting reductions and health are mediated by place, expectations of how localities should be lit, and trust in local authorities to act in the best interests of local communities.

  7. denise morden says:

    GREAT IDEA
    we cannot see the stars properly and have two bright streetlights too close to our house keeping us awake all night and forcing us to use thick drapes in a quiet suburban street!

  8. Eleven Outside Lights says:

    To re-quote the above, ‘Of all the energy-saving tips and house cost saving tips out there, probably the one most often repeated is to turn off the lights when you leave a room,’ <—- so much common sense, and further, what about the lights you leave on when you leave the house?

    Apologies for the caps, how ever…THERE ARE NEIGHBOURS LIVING NEARBY WHO CHOOSE TO LEAVE UPWARDS OF 11 OUTSIDE LIGHTS ON EVEN WHEN THEY'RE NOT HOME, to wit, not counting assorted interior lights left burning!

    Sad but true, something needs to happen to alert the populace the world is not as right as it once was. There are people protesting against coal mines on the one hand and yet there is the slow take up of some very little things that might help to lessen, just a little bit, our negative impact upon this little green globe.

  9. BW says:

    I like the idea as it improves the telescope vision. The drawback is the street lights turning on and off every time a car or pedestrian goes by. I do support motion sensor street lights.

  10. What about Solar lighting…?

  11. There are literally thousands of scientific journal papers that have found adverse health effects of even faint artificial light at night (ALAN), especially blue-rich light from cool white LEDs. Amber LEDs are safer and nearly as efficient. The American Medical Association is running a campaign against blue-rich LEDs. The diseases most associated with blue-rich ALAN are breast cancer, prostate cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The study of 62 English municipalities that had turned their streetlights down or out at night over as long as 14 years provided a massive database with highly reliable results- no increases in crime or road accidents.
    High Pressure Sodium streetlights emit relatively small amounts of blue light. Do not replace them with anything but similarly coloured LEDS.
    Why hasn’t there been more heard about cutting back on street lights? Think about the vested interests again, as in the cases of tobacco, asbestos and fossil fuel industries.

  12. Clear Skies says:

    I tend to agree with the waste of street lighting and the spread of light the give. I can read a book in by bedroom with the amount of light that comes in from street lights and it is also a challenge to block out the light to try and get a good nights rest.

    It also has been proven the lighting effects wild life as it doe’s humans, who is behind the decision making when it comes to lighting is clearly not thinking or not human.

    I would also like to see high rise buildings turn there lights in the Cities, why are we paying for extreme waste of energy

  13. Jon says:

    I’m reminded of my first visit to Llubljana in Tito’s Slovakia back in the late 50s. Not one street light at night, a surefire way of keeping hoodlums and revellers off the streets. Maybe that’s the subliminal message the Mayor is promoting. No surer way of turning the foreign tourists away than offering them a ‘Byron at dark’ experience.

  14. Street lighting is very harmful to the environment and to human health, especially with high colour temperature L.E.D lighting being deployed in many areas. This is now well established. With these lights consuming less energy people can now afford to install more lights for the original cost of running one. Net result: more light pollution and more energy wastage, contributing to climate change. Street lighting, if deemed necessary should only be deployed sparingly, where needed, when needed, in the right amounts and using appropriate smart lighting technology. So what does all this mean? In suburban and residential areas this will involve 11p.m. till dawn curfews, and motion operated lighting. It should be totally banned in rural areas to protect those areas that should naturally be dark at night. Residents needn’t worry as there will be no loss of amenity and light will be available when needed. Low colour temperature luminaires, say 1,750K, should be deployed. If these recommendations are adopted, then there will be minimal impact on the environment, and we will sleep better. Crime rates will decline, as it has been shown that where curfews have been re-introduced, criminality declined by as much as 50%. This is not rocket science, so this is the way to go in the future.

  15. Mark Baker says:

    Brilliant! This mayor is the first intelligent being I’ve found in government. Turn off the street lights, and let the moon and stars do their job for free. Take a look at the million billions of stars in the night sky. Improve your health by sleeping better. Use less energy. Allow wildlife to succeed.

    Turn off the street lights. I love it!

  16. Kat says:

    Peter Hatfield you say “Since LED lights use almost no power why does it matter how many lights they leave on.” The answer is that it is messing with our physiology. Our circadian relies on the cycles of dark and light and we are paying the price of 24 hour lighting with the side effects (found to be sleep and mood issues, metabolic disease and cancer). Wildlife is paying the price with migratory birds losing their way due to being confused by bright LED lights, insect populations in fast decline etc etc. https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/conservation/led-streetlights-are-giving-neighborhoods-the-blues

  17. Liz L says:

    What’s new – some of our councillors long seem to have preferred keeping us in the dark.

    By the way, I thought this policy must already have been implemented in Suffolk Park. The lighting in some streets is pretty non existent. Drivers beware of kamikaze cyclists in dark clothing with no bike lights and pedestrians forced to use the road due to wall to wall parking on the footpaths.

  18. Pel says:

    If you want to see the stars drive out of town. We live in 2019 and sadly Byron shire is a lot more populated than it used to be so you need street lights for safety and in lots of places around the shire there are hardly any! Okay at times there aren’t many people walking around but there always some so keep it safe for them as they shouldn’t have to go around town with torches!

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