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OpenLearn Live: 29th July 2015

Updated Wednesday, 29th July 2015

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Yesterday we explored free will, ordering food in Italy, Henry James, hepatitis and more

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Today's posts

Throwing light on the safety of dark streets

Some councils, to save money, have been switching off street lighting. But does the removal of lights make streets less safe for those of us scuttling about after dusk?

Lamp post Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: sferrario1968

New research by UCL & the London School Of Hygeine & Tropical Medicine suggests that, actually, it doesn't make streets more dangerous to turn off the lampposts:

Researchers analysed 14 years of data from 62 local authorities across England and Wales who had implemented a range of reduced street light strategies, including switching lights off permanently, reducing the number of hours that lamps are switched on at night, dimming lights, and replacing traditional orange lamps with energy efficient white light LED lamps.

To assess road safety, the researchers looked at all roads in participating authorities, examining what type of street lighting was used and the number of traffic collisions that happened at night relative to the day during 2000-13. There was no evidence of an association between reduced street lighting and night-time collisions across England and Wales.

To assess crime, researchers looked at data from 2010-13 to analyse how many crimes took place in an area and what types of street lighting were used there. They focused on offences more likely to occur at night, including burglary, theft of or from a vehicle, robbery, violence and sexual assault. Overall, there was no evidence of an association between reduced street lighting and increased crime across England and Wales.

Study co-author Professor Shane Johnson (UCL Security and Crime Science), said: “The study findings suggest that energy saving street lighting adaptations have not increased area level crime in the neighbourhoods studied. This is very encouraging but it is important to note that it does not mean that this will be the case under all conditions, and so changes to lighting should be managed carefully.”

The researchers caution that street light reductions need to be carefully planned by local authorities. In an accompanying study published in Health & Place, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine conducted interviews and surveys with 520 people and analysed data from eight local authorities in England and Wales with different street light strategies to assess public views. Although reduced lighting had gone largely unnoticed in many areas, and had little reported impact on safety or mobility, there were some strong concerns where lights had been switched off. Street light at night was found to be important to many urban and suburban residents, and some felt less safe in the dark. Switching off lights was also perceived as representing neglect of an area by the local authority who were removing a ‘public good’.

So: you might not be any less safe, but you might feel less safe, and you might feel less cared for. Perhaps it's appropriate the question of street lighting is about perception.

(Sidenote: In 2011, the Bristol Evening Post reported that crime had fallen by around a fifth in areas where street lights were extinguished; local councillors speculated that burglars might prefer to work where they can see their escape routes clearly.)

Read at UCL: Switching off street lights at night does not increase car crashes and crime

Read at Bristol Evening Post: Burglars afraid of the dark? Crime falls when Bristol street lights are turned off

Try our free course Integrated safety, health and environmental management

Congratulations to Gillian Rose

The OU's Gillian Rose has been elected Fellow of the British Academy:

The Open University’s Gillian Rose, Professor of Cultural Geography has been elected Fellow of the British Academy. She is among 42 highly distinguished UK academics ranging across the social sciences and humanities, in addition to 20 corresponding fellows from overseas.

Fellows play a vital role in the work of the Academy by encouraging younger researchers; engaging in public debates and contributing to policy reports with their work and expertise.

Professor Rose said: “Being elected as a Fellow of the British Academy is a huge honour. It’s an honour for me, but also for The Open University and the Faculty of Social Sciences, which have supported me ever since I arrived here 15 years ago. It’s very exciting to be joining some of the scholars whose work I most admire, geographers and others; working with them to promote the importance of the Social Sciences and Humanities.”

Listen to Gillian Rose on how we tame our cities

Read Gillian Rose on how we mourn our public dead

Can India solve Africa's medical equipment problem?

Developing African nations are often the recipients of donated medical equipment. Which is great, but if you've ever worked in a charity shop, you'll know what the problem is. While some donations are generous, many times the donations are being made to clear the way for newer, more appropriate equipment. Leaving the recipient with outmoded, or even non-working items.

The OU's Dr Dinar Kale, Senior Lecturer in International Development and Innovation, has got a solution to this problem - and it involves India. Here's his explanation of how a change in the rules might work to everyone's benefit:


Read more on Can India sort out medical device graveyards in Africa

Listen over lunch: The Life Scientific

Jim Al-Khalili's weekly in-depth interview with key scientific figures reached a milestone yesterday, as EO Wilson became the 100th guest on the show. All 100 are online waiting for you to listen to at will, but we've chosen a few interesting ones, and suggested some supporting content here on OpenLearn.

See the full download list

Listen to: Dorothy Bishop: Why do some children find language difficult

On OpenLearn: Exploring children's difficulties with language and literacy

Listen to: Sandy Knapp on collecting plants
Listen to: EO Wilson on evolution

On OpenLearn: Sandy Knapp and EO Wilson were participants in our Origin Day event

Listen to: Richard Fortey on trilobites

On OpenLearn: Richard Fortey on his favourite fossil

Parks & Recreation week: Parque do Ibirapuera

Our start-up segment this week is taking us on a tour of notable parks around the world. Today, we're calling in at Parque do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo.

Plaetarium in Parque do Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo Creative commons image Icon Reinhard Link under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license

This is the park's planetarium. And that it has a planetarium probably gives you fair warning that this is a park on a grand scale. The park offers the sorts of things you'd expect to find in any well-cared for urban park - cycle paths, snack bars, sports pitches, and so on. But there's much more - a number of buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the architect who was also responsible for creating Brazil's modern capital, Brasilia. As well as the planetarium, the park hosts the Manoel da Nobrega Pavilion - now a museum, but originally City Hall; the Armando de Arruda Pereira Pavilion which houses the Sao Paulo municpal data wranglers; a building for the city transport department; and others.

Although accepted as normal now, the inclusion of so much built environment amongst the park's two square kilometres was hugely controversial at the time - lines were drawn up between those who saw the idea of a park as being a green open space, and those who wanted to push what a park could be a bit further. In the 1940s and 1950s, the designs for the Parque do Ibirapuera were probably one of the sharpest focuses for debate over town planning anywhere.

These disputes - as so often happens - are now largely forgotten as, since 1954, residents of the city have come to first grow used to, and then to love, the park. And those who worried that the space might not be green enough have had their fears allayed - it offers a home to 218 species, and is a staging post on the routes of migratory birds heading to more forested areas of the city.

Read: how cities make us, and how we make cities

Read: Bidoviersity in urban habitats





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