Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Blue light, safety at night

Glasgow night scene with blue streetlights - photo Ivana Dankova

GUEST BLOG - A previous blog on LED lighting introduced the concept of blue street lights and emerging research about crime. Ivana Dankova is a designer from Slovakia currently studying for her MSc in Medialogy in Denmark. In 2011 she completed graduate design research in Scotland on Glasgow’s blue light project. Here Ivana offers this blog on her research. A longer version will appear in the upcoming issue of CPTED Perspective, the ICA newsletter.

A new innovation in street lighting has appeared in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1999 blue streetlights were installed in order to improve the overall aesthetics of the area as a part of a city enhancement program. During my design research for a graduate dissertation I investigated whether blue lights have any effect on people and if so, how they affect them.

As with prior research in CPTED, my hypothesis is that the environment in which we live can influence our behavior. It can inspire us to act in certain ways. My Glasgow case study offered the chance to experience the unique atmosphere of a blue-lit street. Some sources mentioned that the crime surprisingly dropped after blue lights were installed. However, since I could not find further statistics on blue lights in Glasgow, I decided to explore it on my own.

Even though crime reduction was not the initial purpose behind the installation, the street appeared to have a much calmer effect than surrounding streets with traditional sodium yellow/orange lighting.

Even at dusk, blue lights add ambience - photo Ivana Dankova
One possible theory explaining this effect is that since short wavelength blue light produces serotonin in the human brain (which is a calming hormone) it is possible this creates a calming impact on pedestrians. My observation is that people react positively to the lighting. The overall atmosphere is unique and feels more peaceful, calm, as if time moved slower.

I also learned following the Glasgow example, similar blue lights were installed in Japanese train stations. The number of suicides at Japanese train stations was high and increasing, but after the blue lights were installed the number dropped noticeably.

This reduction in suicides due to blue lights is spreading to other locations due to its positive results. Blue lights definitely provide a new tactic for designers looking to calm outdoor locations.

4 comments:

  1. I was delighted to read about the blue lights used in external settings. This has always been a challenge, especially the level of lighting required to dispalce potential offenders.

    We are well aware of general lighting and its impact on crime but to now have some results on the significance of colour is important move forward.

    Geoff Griffiths, Australia

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  2. Thanks Tod, I agree. Ivana is a perceptive designer.

    Thanks also Geoff, you are dead right about general lighting research. None of it covers lighting "quality" like colour. Ivana has done us all a service.

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  3. very smart and interesting defitnetly need those lights in my city

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