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New Orleans residents not jazzed by LED streetlights

Uneasy in the Big Easy: There's plenty of conventional light here in New Orleans' French Quarter, but head east, and the new LEDs leave gaps that have some residents concerned about safety.

New Orleans has an abundance of lively things: jambalaya, music, booze, nightlife and all that jazz. But guess what’s in short supply now that it has ‘upgraded’ conventional streetlights with energy-efficient LED models?

Ironically, light.

Or so say residents of the Big Easy, which is the latest place around the world where locals are complaining that the beams of LED streetlights are simply too narrow.

Resident Michael Jackson told TV station WDSU that he worries about safety because while the LEDs illuminate the road, they leave dark spots between houses.

‘The new LED lights just don’t put out enough light,” he said in an article on WDSU’s website. “The older lights would put out enough light to cover the street as well as the yard and the houses.’

Jackson lives in New Orleans East, a residential area and one of the first neighbourhoods to convert to LEDs in a citywide $16.4 million, 20,000-lamp replacement that began in July.

‘You just never know who’s gonna pop out of the shadows,’ he says in a video report that accompanies the story. ‘The dark spots cast on both sides of the street where the houses are.’

His wife Bobbie Jackson agrees.

‘I think it’s made things dangerous for us now,’ she says. ‘For criminals that [are] coming and passing, they could also be between our cars or rob or break into our cars.’

The city says that the lights will slash energy consumption by between 30 and 50 percent compared to conventional streetlighting. It also notes that the LEDs provide the ‘same or better’ level of illumination with a white hue light – as opposed to the yellowish hue of conventional lighting.

‘We appreciate it and it’s good, but it’s not enough light,’ says Bobbie Jackson. She and other residents are asking for higher wattage lamps that would emit brighter light.

New Orleans is the most recent example of residents concerned that the narrow LED light beams will invite crime. The issue has cropped up in Detroit and Baltimore in the U.S., and in areas of the UK like Hastings, among many others.

On-camera WDSU reporter Gina Swanson notes that, ‘Issues like this seem to be able to be worked out – a lot of cities have had to do a little bit of tweaking after these lights have been installed.’

Perhaps they’ll be happier in New Orleans East when the tweakers come marching in.

Photo is from Kevin D. Oliver via Shutterstock

Want to sound out on street lighting? Come to November’s LuxLive2014 in London, where the lively sessions will include the great street lighting debate and many more.