Geneva to switch off streetlights on half of cantonal roads

Geneva to switch off streetlights on half of cantonal roads

Over the next few weeks, Geneva will begin a new year-long trial that will see street lights switched off on half of all cantonal roads. The Department of Health and Mobility (DSM) argued that the measure, called “OptimaLux”, will improve the sleeping patterns of residents and preserve natural wildlife, but some local councils have raised concerns over safety.

Half of cantonal roads in Geneva plunged into darkness

As part of OptimaLux, from now until the end of 2024 Geneva will switch off the street lighting on half of its cantonal roads - which account for roughly 25 percent of all roads in the city and around 4.250 street lights. These roads will remain unlit for 24 hours a day, although pedestrian crossings and certain landmarks will remain illuminated.

In a statement given to the Tribune de Genève (TdG), the DSM said that the purpose of the plan is to improve the sleep and well-being of those who own or rent property on cantonal roads. They also expect the measure to help preserve nocturnal wildlife and reduce the amount of light pollution emitted by the city.

Supporters claim dark streets improve quality of life

DSM spokesperson Cédric Alber told the TdG that when similar policies were implemented in 2022 - mainly to deal with the prospect of energy shortages - no traffic accidents were found to be related to the lack of light. “For its part, the Cantonal Civil Engineering Office has received few complaints from road users”, he added.

Maryam Yunus Ebener, the magistrate for Ones, told the TdG that she was delighted with the plans, noting that “turning off the lights brings calm and serenity. To improve the well-being of residents, this is where we must go.” She added that in her view, road accidents become less likely on darkened streets, claiming that “when there is less light, we are more attentive.”

Local Swiss authorities raise major safety concerns

While it does have the support of the cantonal government, the plan has not gone down well with some local authorities, with Mathias Buschbeck, the Mayor of Vernier, telling the TdG that "in urban areas, completely switching off lighting raises safety issues.” “What will the cyclist who returns late from work do? And the child returning from their sports class?” he asked.

While he said that “turning off the lights has many benefits” major safety concerns for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists arise when the policy is “total and definitive.” Eric Cornux, the magistrate for Meyrin said, "For saving energy, turning off the lights can be a good thing, but I worry about seniors and other vulnerable populations. From a safety point of view, this does not seem adequate to me.”

Cantonal authorities say OptimaLux plan is very popular

In response, Cédric Alber noted that “the reception of the OptimaLux project [has been] overwhelmingly favourable.” He added that an awareness campaign and new visibility measures will be launched to help prepare the public for the change and that the year-long trial will allow the authorities to see where street lights are truly necessary. 

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Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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