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Do you live on a dark Vancouver street? This might be why

"I feel uneasy walking through these dark areas."

Do you find some Vancouver streets a tad too dark at night?

If you do, you are far from alone. Locals call in reports of burnt-out street lights in neighbourhoods across the city, as well as areas with inadequate lighting. 

Eddy Elmer is a long-time advocate for improved lighting in Vancouver, pressing city council on the issue for nearly a decade. As a member of the Seniors' Advisory Committee for seven years, he tells Vancouver Is Awesome that the concern was brought up repeatedly. 

"I've lived in the West End for 20 years. I feel uneasy walking through these dark areas. It's really important for me to be aware of my surroundings and it's hard to do that when you can barely see in front of you, let alone behind you," he explains. 

"It's hard to notice other people who might be around you. It's also a tripping hazard, especially in the West End where we have a lot of uneven sidewalks."

Numerous areas don't have adequate side-walk level lighting, which poses a greater problem in the summer due to heavier tree cover. "The regular street lights can't reach the sidewalk," Elmer explains.

Poorly maintained and inadequate street lighting is problematic for many vulnerable groups, including 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, women, seniors, and persons with disabilities. 

"This is also a big issue for social isolation of seniors, which is something I research," Elmer added. "If people don't feel safe going outside because it's too dark and they're worried about personal safety or tripping and breaking a hip, they'll be more inclined to stay home."

Elmer, who is Co-Chair of the 2SLGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, submitted a motion with Co-Chair Serena Jackson that recommends adequate funding for street lighting in the city's 2023-2026 Capital Plan for poorly lit areas that pose significant safety risks.

The motion notes that the plan "has allotted $1,000,000 towards installing only 100 new street lights (25 per year), with new and upgraded lighting delivered in-kind through development," which Elmer notes "seems pretty low."

A special meeting was held on June 14 via electronic means and the plan was passed unanimously by the committee. 

Bad lighting in Vancouver: What can the city do to improve conditions?

Sometimes resorting to using a flashlight to navigate precariously dark parts of the West End, Elmer notes there are several things the city can do to improve the lighting situation. 

The advocate says there are a couple of different kinds of lights that would brighten up city streets. One of them is them is the dual-purpose light, "which [has] a regular light at the top and a lower arm with a light that is aimed at the sidewalk," as well as bollard lighting or lighting which is embedded in stairs.

Elmer also points out that the city relies on citizens to report outages. Not only do some people not know how to use the 311 service, but some people may also assume workers or businesses do this in certain areas. 

"And we're lucky we have more daylight now, but it's a big issue in fall/winter, too, when it gets dark really early," he adds. 

A spokesperson for the city told V.I.A. that "it’s important that all of our 55,000 street lights are in working order." But until it has replaced them with LED ones connected to a central monitoring system, it will rely on locals calling in outages. 

And In 2021, the city received a whopping 4,600 requests from the public to fix broken or worn-out lamps.

"We encourage others who’ve never filed a report to let us know when a light isn’t working on their block, in their neighbourhood or anywhere they see one in the city. Burnt out bulbs or electrical issues can be quickly and easily fixed once our electrical team knows where the issue is."

In the spring, the city launched a public awareness campaign encouraging the public to report light issues by calling 311 or using its VanConnect app or desktop version of VanConnect.