The streets as we know them in North America were designed around cars. Whoever has been in Europe knows that it is not the case there. Because of their age, cities and their streets in the Old Continent were built around pedestrians.
The era of industrialization slowly but surely changed all that. But nowadays, some cities in the US and Canada are starting to rethink the scale to which they were designed. They are thinking more in terms of people when they are doing their redesigns and renovations. What they’re planning is reducing the number of car lanes while increasing the sidewalk sizes.
Take the example of the city of Chicago, which is undergoing such landscape changes in many locations across the city. It is what they call a road-diet: the plan is in fact to reduce road lanes in order to accommodate pedestrians, giving them more space by widening the sidewalks. Ultimately, the objective is to make the city a nicer place for them to walk around, linger even, and explore their surroundings.
Another example: the city of Montreal. During the summer, part of the Sainte-Catherine Street, one of the busiest streets in the downtown area of the city, is closed to cars and only accessible to pedestrians. While this is only temporary, it also is a sign of the direction of thought that is more and more frequent.
This revitalization of inner cities and towns, which will leave more space for pedestrians rather than cars, will undoubtedly affect the urban scales and therefore all the street fixtures. Yes, the lights will have less vehicular traffic to cover; but on the other hand, more pedestrians will be walking and staying around, which means they will need appropriate lighting to accommodate them. The lighting solutions available will have to be much more comfortable for people as they are a vital part of the economic success of an area. The more the surroundings are comfortable for people, the more they will hang around longer. And the longer they stay, the more they will consume, assuring the economic vitality of the area. Comfort may be a major criteria, but uniformity will affect the safety and ambiance and thus create a distinction from other cities.
With all these changes in mind, we now have to bring back the lights down to the actual end users, which are the citizens and pedestrians. In doing that, we will increase their well being, which is what designing around people is all about.
We, at Philips Lumec, share this vision: designing lighting solutions very much centered on the human being. The promise of our company is simply enhancing life and human experience with light. This promise rests on three pillars: providing lighting solutions focused on people, creating partnerships to continuously innovate, and ultimately provide meaningful solutions. Innovation is one thing, but we must ensure that the innovations we work on and design will bring better health and welfare so that people, the most important element in this equation, will ultimately benefit.