News / Calgary

City of Calgary gives residents new LED lighting without the blue

Get ready for warrm toned bright lights in your neighbourhood streets

Courtesy City of Calgary

With the City of Calgary working to retrofit around 80,000 streetlights, changing the orange-toned lamps to their more efficient LED modern brothers, they're simultaneously quashing concerns over light pollution and human disturbance.

In 2014, when Council debated and ultimately approved the project, concerns the typically blue-hued lighting would interfere with comfort in residential areas were voiced. But as the project moves forward the city has promised warmer-toned lighting for neighbourhoods.

"The lights used in residential areas is more of a yellow spectrum than blue so there is little concern about exposure to ‘blue light’," read a statement from the City's transportation department. "The City is confident that the chronic exposure to blue-light will be significantly mitigated and will not be a concern as we combine these warmer lights with the ability to control light trespass and glare."

Phil Langill director of the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory University of Calgary said blue light at night, although put in place to create more visibility, can actually impair vision.

"The colour is the problem," Langill said. "The human eye responds very poorly to blue light…the response of your eye is for your pupil to close down, so you can't see at night."

He also said human eyes have the best focus with red, yellows and greens.

"People have a harder time focusing sharply on objects,"

Langill said although the LED technology has reduced what the city calls "uplight" and "backlight" which normally are the culprits of light pollution, when he's driving on Glenmore trail by Westhill where lighting has had an upgrade, he has to use his sun visor.

"I have to flip my visor up, so that I don't get blinded the light that's shining straight into my eyes," Langill said. "The city's halfway there…if they could just reduce the intensity of the lights, or go to a different colour they would have it nailed."

So far, the City of Calgary has installed around 4,680 LED lights with the goal to start replacing 2,000 every month starting in September.

The city is encouraging residents to call 311 if they notice light "trespassing" onto their property – like if it's peeking through the window into your home.

The project was estimated at $32 million – a cost the city hopes to recoup within 6.5 years with electricity and maintenance savings.

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