Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Revisiting stories: Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community and Detroit's reduction in pedestrian deaths from lighting upgrades

I wrote about this in 2014 ("Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community" and "Lighting as an element of urban design and community identity: Cleveland chandelier + Chicago lighting design framework plan design competition").

The basic idea is that in the context of an 18- or 24-hour city, you need to plan specifically and in a structured fashion for the night-time daypart, and that means planning for lighting. The Eindhoven Netherlands lighting master plan takes this further, by defining six categories of light:

  • urban lighting (streets, public areas)
  • buildings and objects
  • art (indoor and outdoor)
  • events and festivals
  • information
  • advertising.
Since then, I also came across a lighting master plan from the City of Bath in the UK.  Bath is noteworthy for being the pilot system of modern integrated urban wayfinding systems.

-- Bath City Centre Lighting Strategy

LED conversion to save money.  Otherwise, the focus of most local governments is streetlight upgrading to LED to save money by using less electricity ("Webinar on street lighting: LEDs, networks: Thursday March 9th").

This has got many residents up in arms because of recommendations by a committee of the American Medical Association about the Kelvin frequency of LEDs and the fact that manufactured LED lighting tends to be at higher frequencies ("When the lights go on in DC, will they be too bright?," WTOP; "Takoma Park looks to new LED lights to save money, energy," Washington Post).

Smart City initiatives/Streetlights as networks.  Some but not all local governments are also looking at conversion projects as a way to reposition streetlights as networks, and incorporate other elements.  For example, DC would like to use new streetlight systems as a way to deliver wi-fi and incorporate Shot Spotter and other public safety technologies.

-- "Smart street lighting is driving smart city projects," SmartCities World

Streetlights as electric car charging devices.  London ("Want an electric car charge point on the street outside your house? There's a £2.5m pot, but the catch is you have to apply though your council," This is Money) and Los Angeles are two of the cities looking at this.

Streetlight conversion as an element of public safety.  Streetsblog USA calls our attention to Detroit ("Detroit Streetlight Effort Dramatically Reduces Ped Deaths") where likely the streetlight conversion was driven by saving money, but is positioned primarily as a public safety initiative. The city claims a 95% decrease in annual pedestrian deaths -- from 24 to 1 -- because of the change.

Communicating benefits: public safety versus saving money as the primary message for streetlight upgrades.  One of the most important books I read on marketing and message was called Strategic Marketing for Not-For-Profit Organizations.  Its primary point is that all organizations have three publics: input which give you resources; throughput which does the work of the organization (staff); and output to whom the organization's actions are directed.  And that you should differentiate your marketing depending on which public you're addressing.

Too often government agencies don't differentiate in messaging across the publics or test what type of messaging resonates best.  Saving money is a great benefit, but might not be the most important message.

... just as the presentations around the report Building Public Will make the point that the best message for clean rivers isn't environmental stewardship but more focused on public health and the fact that most drinking water comes from rivers.

The lesson is to figure out the best message that resonates with the public, not based on how you think the public should be acting and behaving ("take care of the environment" vs. clean drinking water or "historic preservation is a good thing to do" vs. it.makes your house worth more, etc.)

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