On Streetscaping (iii) Street Lighting

The street lighting problem …

Currently streets are uniformly lit for the benefit of vehicles in the centre of the road. Lighting intensity may increase at certain intersections. Sidewalks and pedestrians may be in the shadow of vehicles and trees. They do not have lighting levels set to meet their needs or to establish a pleasant urban walking environment. Too much lighting is just as bad as too little lighting if it creates a harsh and unwelcoming environment.

Street lights are usually located at a regular distance apart and uniformly set back behind the sidewalk or along the curb. For the motorist, this creates the impression of a wide right of way and gives the illusion the motorist can see far ahead, which encourages speeding.

The street lighting solution …

Lighting needs are different for motorists and pedestrians, and the appropriate level of lighting should be provided for each. Lighting may need to be brighter in some areas than others. Generally, along main streets this takes the form of overhead lighting of the centre of the road with “cobra head” or “shoebox” lighting on tall poles; and more frequent lower height sidewalk lighting that fosters a pleasant and safe pedestrian environment.

If uniformly lower-height lighting fixtures are selected for both the road and sidewalks, fixtures will have to be very frequent (reconstructed Bank Street is an example).
Sidewalk fixtures should shield lighting from shining into adjacent residential windows.
The decorative features of the fixtures are important to set the tone and feeling along the street. Generally the lighting identifies the main street and does not extend onto other streets.
If the street lighting is set uniformly back from the centre line of the road, it gives motorists an impression of wide road right of way, which conflicts with the actual streetscape of bulb outs, parking bays, etc. Installing light fixtures at the curb edge of bulb outs and perhaps behind the sidewalk at parking bays gives an irregular edge to the right of way. Walk along Preston or West Wellington and notice how differently the fixtures aligned and what effect this has to the feel of the street.

Installing lighting and signal control boxes on bulb outs also makes it difficult and expensive to convert the street back to a wider, more traffic lanes format.