So, I was travelling down the A580, also known as the ‘East Lancs’ (short for East Lancashire Road), at about 120 mph last night. Ah, hang on, just got to look something up, back in a sec.
So, I was travelling down the A580, also known as the ‘East Lancs’ (short for East Lancashire Road), at well under the 60 mph speed limit last night. The ‘East Lancs’ is the proper route to use to get from Manchester to Liverpool. Unlike motorways, it is straight, and it has street lights for most of it. Seriously, it is just a single straight road that must have been built by Romans or something, it is so straight. And at 4 in the morning it is empty. And at 4 in the morning as one nears Liverpool there is a 24 hour drive-thru Starbucks. Compete with that, you mainly unlit motorway alternatives.
Anyway, at one section just away from St Helens, probably technically around Knowsley, they have done something slightly odd.
They have put electric ‘cats eyes’ in the road. As in, they are where ‘cats eyes’ would go, marking out the lanes and the edge of the road, usually reflecting your headlights back up at you, but they are powered and generating their own light, a bit like the landing light strips on an airport runway.
So, suddenly this whole stretch of the road for a mile or so, has highly illuminated lights on the road surface. It still has street lights above, and I’m wondering if there might be an experiment a-coming whereby they switch off the street lights and just leave the electric ‘cats eyes’ on.
I’d guess a single led in each ‘cats eye’ delivers the light, and so even though there are dozens more than there are street lights, the power consumption is probably incredibly low in comparison.
Probably not helped by the consumption of beverages from Starbucks, there is one slight issue, however. The electric ‘cats eyes’ flicker. Well, all lights flicker, but these have a flicker rate slow enough to just about be detectable by the human eye. Normally the eye doesn’t detect electric light flicker, because the rate is faster than our brain can register.
The effect is that the lights appear to ‘jump about’ in one’s field of vision as one moves one’s eyes about to check in mirrors and all that stuff that has to be done whilst driving. This is not good, and is rather painful and annoying. It becomes an actual relief when one has finally driven through all the electric ‘cats eyes‘ and is back on conventional road.
And that is all a bit of a shame. If this experimental landing strip bit of the A580 is a sign of the future, then the flicker rate really needs to be dealt with. Sort that, making them comfortable on the eye, and maybe the future of roads is with electric cats eyes and no more need for wasteful overhead street lighting.
Quinetic put something like these round the back of Farnborough airport about 12 years ago, they were solar-powered and didn’t flicker, they were just unnaturally bright (I only discovered them by turning off my headlights in the dark – which then became a girlfriend-worrying trick!), and a couple of years later I remember reading that there were several experimental patches around the place Andover, Bracknell? Anyhow’s; they seem to have mostly gone now and no sign of their wider implementation…but they were good.
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