A brighter city is a safer city
Many people feel uneasy in inadequately lit outdoor urban environments. Poor lighting can often lead to increased criminality. Can surveillance cameras, security guards and other traditional safety measures be replaced by better lighting? ÅF has put that theory to the test in a pilot study in the Copenhagen suburb of Gadehavegård, with positive results.
A follow-up survey conducted by the local authority also shows a significant improvement in local residents’ perceptions of security.
Lighting gives a sense of security
A socially sustainable urban environment is one in which people are willing and able to move freely day and night, without feeling insecure. One relatively new approach to improving safety and security in cities is to install better street lighting. Streets, squares and footpaths that appear dark are often perceived as unsafe, and there is a clear correlation between dimly lit areas and criminality.
Improving outdoor lighting can encourage more people to move freely and feel safer during the hours of darkness. A visually attractive environment also sends signals that an area is well looked after, giving residents a greater sense of pride in their neighbourhood. “Measures to improve security usually focus on crime-ridden areas. That means things like surveillance cameras, wire fences and security guards. Working with outdoor lighting is a novel approach. Better lighting means better security, but it also adds value in other ways by improving local residents’ perception of an area’s visual appeal,” says Christian Klinge, Head of Innovation at ÅF's lighting team.
If people are to feel safe, the important thing is not the amount of light, but how and where this lighting is located. Poorly directed lighting can have an adverse effect and create a sense of disharmony and insecurity. The key is to know how light affects people and how people move around in urban environments.
Pilot study in Copenhagen
Gadehavegård is home to just over 2,000 people. With its supermarkets, schools, playgrounds, football pitches and cross-section of residents young and old, this Copenhagen suburb is, in many ways, typical of numerous other residential areas. In recent years, however, crime has been rife in the area.
As part of an initiative to address this problem the local council sought ÅFs help in the pilot project “Light up your Life” to determine whether better outdoor lighting might be one way to improve local security. The project took place over a 12-month period to make it possible to identify how lighting could be improved during the various seasons of the year.