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Streetlighting: Hartlepool hunts down dangerous LED ‘zebras’

Spooked by LEDs: Residents in Hartlepool that LED street lights are leaving scary dark patches. They prefer conventional lamps that illuminate wider areas, such as this one outside the town's famously haunted Cosmopolitan Hotel.

LED street lighting seemed like a good idea for saving energy in Hartlepool, but now that the new luminaires are operating, residents are screaming out against them for leaving dangerous dark patches that create a ‘muggers paradise.’

The Hartlepool Borough Council has heard their angry calls and said it will investigate.

‘Councillor Peter Jackson, who is chair of Neighbourhood Services, accepted some areas were experiencing a “zebra” effect, with dark areas between lampposts, and promised surveys would be carried out to see if any further work is needed,’ the Hartlepool Mail reported. ‘We will deal with the black spots on roads and paths if they aren’t at the standard they should be,’ Jackson said. 

The town is replacing all of its 13,644 conventional streetlights with LED varieties, a £5 million project intended to save £270,000 a year in energy and maintenance. But for all of the cost advantages and myriad other potential benefits of LEDs, people in many cities and localities – including Detroit, Baltimore and New Orleans in the US – have complained that their narrow beam angle leaves areas like walkways and drives in darkness.

Hartlepool townspeople joined in the chorus at a recent open meeting with the Council.

‘To me it’s a mugger’s paradise,’ resident Evelyn Leck said, as the Hartlepool Mail reported. ‘I know the council is trying to save money and I understand that but I think people’s health and welfare need to come first.’

Noting that the new lights have left one road ‘absolutely pitch black,’ another individual, Frank Sowerby said, ‘I don’t think the savings are worth the risk to people’s health. Elderly people are going to be tripping over.’

Despite the criticism of LED street lighting – which has also included health concerns ranging from blindness to cancer to sleep deprivation – 

many cities are forging ahead with plans to use LEDs not only to save energy and costs but also to help create information networks for ‘smart cities.’

LEDs save considerable energy compared to conventional streetlamps. They also last much longer, thus cutting down on maintenance and repair costs. And because they are based on digital technology – LEDs are light emitting diodes (electronic chips) – they lend themselves to digital networks that can remotely turn them on and off and adjust their brightness. They can tie into sensors that detect whether they should turn on, and at what brightness.

Likewise, the sensors can feed cities with other information like traffic and crowd conditions, or air quality.

One research initiative outside Copenhagen recently began investigating LED and smart city possibilities in a collaborative industry/user/academia project called the Danish Outdoor Ligthing Lab.

In one novel possibility, Los Angeles is considering using flashing LED street lamps to help guide police and fire crews to emergency scenes.

Photo is from SwaloPhoto via Flickr

Want to sound off on LED streetlighting? Come to LuxLive2014  Nov. 19, 20 in London, with lively sessions debating LED street lighting and more. Meanwhile, the European Commission is assembling mayors, city managers and vendors this week in Rome to debate the way forward in smart lighting. Lux will run the spirited discussion. We can’t wait to tell you about the inventive ideas.