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News from City, University of London

Getting the right light at night

by Hollie Jenkins

Following recent improvements in the understanding of vision at night time, researchers at City University London, Sheffield University and UCL propose that lighting in residential streets can be improved and the electricity consumed by this lighting, reduced.

The MERLIN project (Mesopically Enhanced Road Lighting: Improving Night-vision) has been awarded £1.2 million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a four year project to investigate lighting for pedestrians.

Professor John Barbur, Director of Research at The Applied Vision Research Centre at City University London says that the research will have important implications for road safety, as well as the environment.

“It has been shown that good road lighting can reduce vehicle accidents by 30%.
“In addition, there are 7.1 million lighting points installed in the UK. It has been estimated that the lighting of one kilometre of UK residential road for one hour generates 1.7kg on carbon dioxide.

“The development of optimised lighting which can dynamically adjust in response to changes in natural daylight may have significant functional and environmental benefits.”

Lighting is needed to provide a road which is safe for people to use and which is also perceived to be safe. There is, as yet, no definitive evidence-based evaluation of the precise visual tasks of pedestrians.

The research team at City University London, led by Professor John Barbur, will investigate how the eye and visual system operates at mesopic (night time) light levels.

In parallel, teams at the University of Sheffield, led by Dr Steve Fotios, and at UCL, led by Peter Raynham, will determine the visual needs of pedestrians at night time, and subsequently how these needs are affected by variations in the quality of lighting.

“This is a unique collaboration of leading UK researchers of lighting and vision. Together, the three research teams will identify not only what are the optimum qualities of road lighting for pedestrians, but also why they are the optimum qualities.”

Professor John Barbur, City University London


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