Are LED lights bright enough?

To the editor:

I am writing to express a concern that Oberlin street lights, in some cases, do not adequately illuminate our streets, sidewalks, and in particular, intersections.

Over the last three to four years, the city, as part of its efforts to lower its carbon emissions, has been retrofitting its street lights with more efficient LED lamps. This effort received widespread support from council and the public utilities commission. I certainly supported this effort. What many of us thought we had approved was the replacement of street lights with ones that put out the same amount of light but used significantly less energy in doing so.

And in some cases that is what happened. In other cases, however, replacement lamps emit significantly less total light and focus their light much more directly onto the street beneath the pole to which the lamp is attached. As a consequence, very little light is thrown down the street in either direction or onto nearby sidewalks. As I drive around the town, particularly on streets near the college, I am struck by how dark some of the cross-walks are at night — as are the sidewalks near the crosswalks where the site of an approaching pedestrian clues a driver to be careful. And there are many sections of streets between light poles that are barely illuminated at all. These dark spots used to be covered by the old-fashioned, inefficient lights whose reflectors were not so focused downward.

Perhaps this is simply my own impression, associated with my aging eyes. Conversations with friends, however, confirm others share similar concerns. I would encourage other citizens to assess the situation and provide feedback to the city on this issue.

John H. Scofield