Since 1970 the light source of choice in most cities has been sodium vapor, those yellowish streetlights you see glowing everywhere.
Sodiums are an efficient light source but many lighting engineers despise their color. According to one New York lighting designer "There is this negative subliminal response…the connotation is crime." Says another: "Yellow light muddies the colors of surrounding neighborhoods and makes people feel less secure because the colors around them are not true."
In fact there is very little actual research showing any of that. Most research says nothing about light color, only light quantity.
Regardless, it was only a matter time before a new lighting kid showed up on the block. In this case it was the LED - light emitting diode.
For example Seattle, like most North American cities, is converting to more cost efficient LEDs. They might be more efficient but they they produce a harsh, sharp image on everything.
A decade ago I was guest editor of a publication on lighting and CCTV. My thoughts then: If street lighting enhances architecture where pedestrians can appreciate the facades and details of downtown buildings, there may be problems lighting a downtown so bright it detracts from the aesthetics.
Whenever I see downtown LEDs they remind me I was probably right.
The photos in this blog demonstrate downtown sodium lighting. They show how well-placed sodiums provide adequate lighting and highlight the beautiful textures in downtown architecture.
In none of these photos did sodium lighting detract from prevention or turn people off. There are no people in the photos because, at least in the photos I took, I had to wait for them to move aside in order to show the effect. Obviously, sodium lighting did not make them feel less secure. In fact, the opposite.
We know very little about the impact of color on night time behavior, especially crime. And since no one is apparently paying attention to the crime and social impact of LEDs, I hope we don't learn, too late, that brighter isn't always better.