History of Street Lighting

The absence of natural light in the urban environment at night has always been a problem. Apart from basic inconvenience, people can’t see where they are going and was easily attacked or mugged over the night. This problem has existed since people began living together, hence, the history of street lights may be longer than we think.

The use of street lighting was first recorded in the city of Antioch from the 4th century. Later it was recorded in the Caliphate of Córdoba from the 9th–10th centuries, especially in Cordova. In the Middle Ages, so-called “link boys” escorted people from one place to another through the murky winding streets of medieval towns. Before incandescent lamps, candle lighting was employed in cities. The earliest lamps required that a lamplighter tour the town at dusk, lighting each of the lamps. According to some sources, illumination was ordered in London in 1417 by Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London though there is no firm evidence of this.

In 1524, Paris house owners were ordered to have lanterns with candles lit in front of their houses at night, but the law was often ignored. Following the invention of lanterns with glass windows, which greatly improved the quantity of light, in 1594, the police of Paris took charge of installing lanterns in each city neighborhood. Still, in 1662, it was a common practice for travelers to hire a lantern-bearer if they had to move at night through the dark, winding streets. Lantern bearers were still common in Paris until 1789. In 1667, under King Louis XIV, the royal government began installing lanterns on all the streets. There were three thousand lanterns in place by 1669, and twice as many by 1729. Lanterns with glass windows were suspended from a cord over the middle of the street at a height of twenty feet and were placed twenty yards apart. A much-improved oil lantern, called a réverbère, was introduced between 1745 and 1749. These lamps were attached to the top of lampposts; by 1817, there were 4694 lamps on the streets of Paris. During the French Revolution (1789–1799), the revolutionaries found that the lampposts were a convenient place to hang aristocrats and other opponents.

Today, street lighting usually uses discharge lamps of high intensity. After the Second World War, low-pressure sodium lamps became commonplace for their low power consumption and long life. Late in the 20th century HPS high pressure sodium lamps were preferred, taking further the same virtues. Such lamps provide the greatest amount of photopic illumination for the least consumption of electricity.

Later on, it has been shown that white light sources doubled the peripheral vision of drivers and improved the reaction time of the driver’s brake by at least 25 percent, and at the same time enabled pedestrians to better detect the dangers of pavement trips and facilitate visual assessments of other people associated with interpersonal judgments. Studies comparing metal halides and high – pressure sodium lamps showed that a street scene illuminated by a metal halide lighting system at night was reliably seen as brighter and safer than the same scene illuminated by a high – pressure sodium system at the same photopic light levels.

Two national standards now allow for variation in illuminance when using lamps of different spectra. In Australia, HPS lamp performance needs to be reduced by a minimum value of 75%. In the UK, illuminances are reduced with higher values S/P ratio.

New street lighting technologies, such as LED or induction lights, emit white light that provides high levels of scotopic lumens, allowing the replacement of existing street lights with those of lower wattages and lower photopic lumens. ZGSM Lighting (M) Sdn Bhd provide such LED- based lights, promising brighter lights with lower electricity consumption .

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