Cities are known as much for their lights as their skylines. What would Paris, New York, or Sydney be without their signature nighttime scenery? Their romantic appeal would be dimmed, for sure.
But technology has come along that will revolutionize how we see at night, and cities across the globe are jumping on the opportunity to cut costs and increase safety. But as it turns out, these new lights come with some surprising consequences.
Our cities are finally getting the makeover that will turn them into the futuristic visions foretold decades ago: They’re getting LED lighting.
The switch to long-lasting, efficient LED lighting will save cities considerable funds on power and maintenance.
Moreover, the LED lights greatly change the appearance of cities and allow for better, clearer vision at night.
Just look at the lights we used to live with, scattering orange-y, yellow-y light across the pavement.
It’s a warm light, but it barely illuminates the street.
LED lights provide much greater illumination with cooler light.
However, the American Medical Association issued a warning about the new, cool lights that are saving so much money…
Some cities switching to LED lights have taken it a step too far, generating complaints about the harshness of the lighting.
In fact, the city of Davis, California started changing over its streetlights to LED but had to alter their plan in the middle of the project because of the number of negative comments about the new bright lights for causing glare and hurting eyes. As it happens, at a certain color temperature (CT), lights can cause eye damage.
In their warning, the AMA recommends that lighting not exceed a CT above 3000 Kelvin.
To give you an idea, a candle gives off a CT of about 1800K, while an incandescent bulb has a CT of about 2400K. Some of the LED lights being installed around the country have a CT above 4000K. They contain a cool blue wavelength that can scatter when it hits the eye.
So although the road might show up with more clarity at night, the lights can actually damage the retina.
Just imagine driving along underneath a bank of lights that hurts your eyes and causes increased glare — now the city’s investment isn’t looking so hot.
What’s more, the bright lights contribute that much more to light pollution, so they can throw off people’s sleep rhythms — and animals’ as well, and shake up their migratory patterns.
So the AMA made a few recommendations: Yes, convert to LED lighting; but, use the lowest possible emission of blue light when doing so; and shield the LED installations to reduce glare and possible harm.
Do you think LED lights will make cities better and safer overall?