UK Streets Might Get Mood Lighting

Heyooooo! JimOnLight’s UK correspondent here, coming at you with hot off the press news!

The conversation to dim streetlights during very low traffic levels has been initiated, and it’s causing quite a stir! The Press Association reports:

” Norman Baker, the local transport minister, supported the move as long as safety was not compromised.

In a parliamentary written answer he said: “The level of light reduction will be based upon internationally agreed standards and made in consultation with the UK’s Institute of Lighting Professionals.

“It is right that lighting authorities consider, in the interests of cost-saving and the environment, whether lighting can be sensibly dimmed or turned off, consistent with proper safety assessments.” “

The roads in question are the A roads, the major thoroughfares connecting cities which are not motorways. The Californian side of me would describe A roads as “highways,” while motorways are “freeways.” Kapeesh?

So we like saving the environment, and we like saving money. Why is this such a massive discussion?

Numerous fears including increased crime, automobile accidents, are mixed with financial worries. The conversion would cost a significant sum, and people aren’t sold on MAKIN IT RAIN!

The Telegraph reports:

“…While authorities across the UK are saving £21.5 million per year by turning off nine per cent of lights, the schemes to reduce street lighting cost a total of £106.3 million.

The bill for installing dimming technology or converting lights to part-night operations, which is five times greater than the saving, means some councils will not start seeing the benefits for up to eight years.”

This follows other UK locations, such as the Welsh county of Gwynedd have already experimented in dimming street lights between midnight and 5:30 am. There seems to be much more support of dimming street lights than turning them off. Kirklees and Derbyshire are amongst numerous experiments in turning off street lights, both completely and in selection (1 in 10 seems to be a common cutting ratio). Fears of isolation ensued.

What do you think? Turn ‘em all off and make everyone wear headlamps, selective black outs, dimming, ALL OF THE LIGHTS! @ FL or something else?

 

If you found this interesting, I also posted about the delightfully unexpected results of blue street lights in Glasgow as well as Japan here. I’m imagining these cobalt lamps as urban super heros, stopping crime and saving lives! Neato burrito.

Incandescent Traffic Lamp Manufacturers, Here’s Your Chance

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When you live in a place that sees a lot of snow per year – let’s just say somewhere like Chicago or other places in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio – you would think that dealing with snow is something that is just accepted. Sometimes it snows sideways in the Midwest.  I remember being a kid and walking home from school covered only on one side with sticking snow, and having our house covered on one side with snow 6″ thick.  Snow fills up anything in its way when it’s blowing like that – stop signs, traffic lights, store signs, billboards, you name it.

There’s one thing that seems to have been forgotten when designing LED replacement lamps for traffic lights – snow. This is one time when incandescent traffic lights win over their energy-saving LED opponents.  The incandescent lamps melt the snow that accumulates on them for the most part, whereas the LEDs do not generate enough heat to clear themselves enough to be seen.  What is happening right now is that in order to clear the traffic lights of snow, a person has to go out and clean the snow off by hand, and as they do that it’s like the theoretical savings of  having “green” traffic lights goes out in the wind like a well-placed fart.

Several accidents and one death has occurred due to this “new” phenomenon of snow covering up traffic lights that have been converted to LED sources. Places in the Midwest (and around the world, I assume) are having to send teams of men out to remove snow from traffic lights.  I mean, what are you going to do, install heaters?  Do they even make heaters for that?  Again, kiss the energy savings goodbye.

Is this a huge “oh my GOD” kind of issue, sending people out to remove the snow? I don’t think so. It’s the accidents and death that bother me more than anything.  Most motorist, however, have treated the situation of snow-covered traffic lights with caution, which means that human beings are still at least a little intelligent.  From an article at Huffington Post:

In Minnesota, where authorities have upgraded hundreds of traffic lights to LEDs, the Transportation Department occasionally gets reports of an obstructed light. But by the time a highway crew arrives, the wind has often knocked out the snow and ice, said traffic systems specialist Jerry Kotzenmacher. Minnesota is experimenting with weather shields.

One reason there have been so few deaths is that drivers know they should treat a traffic signal with obstructed lights as a stop sign, traffic experts say.

“It’s the same as if the power is out,” said Dave Hansen, a traffic engineer with the Green Bay Department of Public Works. “If there’s any question, you err on the side of caution.”

What exactly does this LED traffic light epic fail mean?  I think this is a really interesting area and time where incandescent lights have basically lucked into a way to completely change everything about themselves and gain a little reputation back.  What needs to happen now is that incandescent lamp engineers and LED manufacturers both need to hit the drawing board and figure out how to make their products better.  Let us not forget the energy consumption factor of LED traffic lights compared to incandescent light expenditures:  nearly 89% savings by using LED lamps.

Look, I am a fan of light.  I am not going to pick sides completely against one source, whether it’s LEDs or incandescent lamps, or plasma lamps, or my freaking dry yard on fire to provide a source of light.  I criticize and celebrate what needs to be criticized and celebrated.  Right now (actually years ago), LED traffic lights have given a nice Christmas present to incandescent lamp manufacturers and allowed them a chance to redeem themselves.  So, incandescent lamp manufacturers, here’s your chance to shine.  Take a few moments at least to talk about that in a board meeting somewhere.

For the rest of us, treat a snow-covered traffic light as if there were an outage at that intersection.  Learn from other people’s misfortune to avoid it from happening again.

Thanks, Reuters, for the photo!

Eko – The Traffic Light That Quells Impatience

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Yeah, okay, I remember being one of those impatient drivers in a hurry – tapping my feet, saying “come on, come ON” at the stoplight, as if the stupid thing could hear me.  Those times are gone now, just in time for the Eko traffic light to get unveiled:

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Eko is an idea dealing with the very un-ecological environment of traffic and travel.  The Eko has a visual countdown on the circumference of the signal itself, giving travelers an idea as to when the traffic light will change.  Frankly, I think that people should just calm the hell down, but as I have learned, not all of my ideas are good.

Damjan Stankovic is the inventor of the Eko idea.  From the designer’s website about the product:

Eko light is a simple yet, highly practical concept for traffic lights that not only helps preserve the environment by reducing pollution but promotes safer driving as morewell. Eko can be easily installed onto existing traffic light systems without much effort while significantly improving overall traffic dynamics.

There are many benefits of the Eko light, the main ones being:

Less pollution.
Drivers can turn their engines off and cut carbon emissions while waiting for the green light.

Less fuel consumption
Turning off your vehicle while waiting on the traffic light can lower fuel consumption in the long run.

Less stress
Since you know exactly how long you have to wait you can sit back and clear your head for a while. No need to keep your foot on the gas. Relax.

Safer driving.
With the Eko light both drivers and pedestrians can be fully aware of how much time they have left before the light changes and that way reduce the chance for potential traffic accidents.

Well, I think it’s cool.  I still think we all need to calm down a bit, though.  What I hope is that this idea would actually make people turn off their engines at a stoplight.  I think that might be a far-fetched idea, at least in the United States – but I think that if we could embrace such change, it could be pretty excellent.  Cool design, Damjan.

Check out Damjan’s portfolio site also – he’s got some interesting designs there!

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