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.