How solar street lights increase safety
At night, things look different. The amount of illumination in an area – or lack thereof – affects what we can see and thus how safe we feel. As the City of Melbourne’s 2013 lighting strategy observes, “People’s perceptions of safety are influenced by factors such as visual comfort, wayfinding, and the ease with which objects and places can be recognised. At night, the presence of artificial light affects these factors.”
Of course, most of us already know that lighting at night is helpful for finding our way, avoiding hazards, identifying dangers and recognising the intent of other people. We know that we feel safer when an area is well lit as opposed to walking in the dark. And we know that when it comes to safety on the street, lighting plays a huge role.
Up until recently, however, there appears to have been an assumption in public lighting design that more and brighter lights meant increased safety. But recent research by Plan International, Monash University and ARUP lighting is in fact demonstrating the opposite – especially when it comes to women’s perceptions of safety.
The findings also help shine an even greater light on the benefits of solar street lighting in particular, given a solar street light can be designed more flexibly to adapt to the brightness levels and colour profiles now proven to maximise those perceptions of safety.
Brighter is not always better – and why solar street lights can help
The research looked at women’s perceptions of safety and lighting, focusing on 80 unsafe hotspots identified by women in Melbourne.
Its key finding was that high illuminance, or very bright and overlit spaces, do not correlate with young women’s perceptions of safety at all. In fact, places with higher light levels were those most likely to be perceived by women as unsafe. In contrast, environments with multiple light sources that create a consistent and layered lighting effect – as can be achieved with modern solar street light design – were those where women reported feeling most safe. (Kalms & Hunt, 2019).
Cool is not always cool – colour and ambience is key
As well as clear safety perception differences around brightness, there were also clear results with respect to cool versus warm lighting. In fact, the data showed a distinct correlation between cooler white light sources making women feel unsafe, whereas the sites that were more warmly lit were consistently those perceived by women as the most safe. So why is this, and how can solar street lighting help here too?
One reason is that bright, cool lighting – unfortunately used often in traditional urban lighting design – actually produces a ‘floodlit effect’, whereby the bright light means it’s harder to see beyond the light into the shadows, or make out details such as the features of someone walking towards you. The potential of bright lights to create glare and contrast therefore makes it harder to identify hazards, having an opposite effect on visibility and thus perceptions of safety.
However, solar street lights can produce warm, layered lighting more conducive to safety
The research clearly showed that for lighting to be truly effective in increasing perceptions of safety at night, it must be designed in a way that considers the most appropriate brightness levels as well as the light’s colour profile. Solar powered street lights utilising warm LED lamps – such as those designed by one of Australia’s leading solar street lighting suppliers Leadsun, for example – have much greater flexibility with respect to designing appropriate brightness and colour levels.
Leadsun’s smart solar street lights offer a quick, easy and cost-effective way to light public spaces with warm, layered lighting, creating evening-friendly environments. Our warm 3000K dark-sky compliant lights with adaptive motion sensing controls, for instance, provide this warm layered lighting from multiple light sources, creating a clear sense of security.
In addition, the EDGE wireless control allows the asset owner to change the lighting level and programming to meet community needs, as well as remotely monitor that light’s performance, ensuring our solar street lights help keep public spaces accessible and safer for all.