What Is a Street Light and Why It Is Important?

Have you ever wondered what is actually so special about street lights? Well, these unsung heroes have a story to tell too.

Let’s rewind back time to the early ages of the Greek and Roman civilisations. Here, the early forms of street lights were purely established for the purpose of security and safety.

Interestingly, these lamps were kept lit during the night by slaves who were solely responsible for this function. They were called lanternarius. Fast forward to 1879, Joseph Swan, an English Physicist, was responsible for lighting up the first street by an incandescent light bulb. Presently, street lighting solutions come in different forms ranging from high-intensity discharge lamps to LED or induction lights and the youngest member to the family, solar-power charged street lights. Records state that as of 2016, there were 304 million streetlights in the world and was expected to further grow to 352 million of those by the end of 2025. To better put that into perspective, there are 7.8 billion people in the world currently. So, there would be 0.045 street lamps out there for each individual on planet Earth.

Let’s now move on to the salient features of the street light. Firstly, we’ll look into the colour of the light that emits from these street lights. Usually, lamps that are used close to town centres, tend to be high-pressure sodium lamps which emit a pale-honey light. While in residential areas, a low-pressure sodium lamp emits a strong yellow/orange colour. These are more energy efficient in comparison to the other. But, the high-sodium lamps give a better colour rendering quality for the driver’s ease. With the advancement in technology, lamps which emit light diode (LED) lamps took the streets by storm. They emit a whiter light and have a longer life span and in addition to this, it also carries higher levels of efficiency rates.

Next, let’s look into the structure of street lights. As one may have seen, the street lamps usually have a base to support the long vertical structure. This vertical column is made up of the appropriate material suggested and is designed to support luminaires. What are luminaries, you may ask? These are systems that disperse, filters and changes the transmitted light from one or more lamps. Then, comes the top part of the lamp. Here, we have the light source itself. This may be powered by battery or solar or such.

On October 31, 2011, at approximately 8:15 pm in Harris County, Texas, a car collided with a bike rider. The car rear-ended the bike. The bike rider was travelling on the same lane as the car driver. The car driver blocked the traffic by staying with the injured man in order to prevent him from incurring further damages. Unfortunately, the bike driver succumbed to his injuries. Post this ordeal, the driver claimed the fact he was unable to see the bike rider due to the poor lighting.


solar street light
solar street light

Street lights are very crucial in various contextual scenarios. It helps to improve the level of safety of drivers as well as pedestrians. It was found out that 40% of all fatal and serious injuries happen during the hours outside the daylight hours of 7am to 8 pm, even though an only quarter of sum total of car travel happen during these hours.

Pedestrians are equally vulnerable as they share their paths with drivers as well as riders. A well-lit street is very helpful to keep pedestrians safe and sound.

Also, another benefit of street light is the fact that it ensures safety. Street lights help to create a sense of safety in the minds of the users as it artificially extends the light hours for people to do go about and carry on with their activities. Pedestrians find it safer to walk during the night when streets are sufficiently lit. A well-lit can help to reduce the risk related to roads during hours where sunlight isn’t available. Adding on, with the increased activities being carried out during these hours, it would lead to an increase in business activities and public interactions.

Street lights have come a long way from its earliest form of oil lamps. The future of street light is promising with the advancement in technology in areas of sustainability, technological efficiency and optimisation. Many cities have successfully shifted from sodium lamps to LED street lights, keeping in mind factors such as sustainability, cost and life span of the lamp itself. As of 2020, Solar Lighting Outdoor is making strides in this area by focusing on combining technology to street lighting problems to solve urban issues and expand the possibilities of creating a more energy sufficient future. The Lighting Council of Australia is highly recommending towards revamping by the existing infrastructure with the addition of green lighting into them. We can definitely conclude that the future is indeed bright!

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