City Informer: Why Are Some Vancouver Street Lights Blue?

...and why is the City in such a hurry to change them back?

Joni Mitchell. Picasso. Eiffel 65. The creator of the smash-hit interactive educational children’s television series Blue’s Clues. The list of iconic artists who have taken inspiration from the colour blue could go on and on and on. Imagine what even greater heights they could have reached in their creativity if they’d had the chance to experience Vancouver’s beautiful, defective street lights.

That’s right: the blue light emanating from 100-plus of the 55,000-odd street lights that illuminate our city’s sidewalks and roads are the result of a failed coating on the LED bulbs that were installed between 2017 and 2019. It was a relief to learn that this issue is just a manufacturing problem, and not the work of a rogue Arts Club theatre tech, haunting the city streets after dark trying to create a “mood.”

Illustration by Byron Eggenschwiler

The busted bulbs are slated to be replaced under warranty by the manufacturer, but, honestly, I think that’s a shame. These blue lights aren’t hurting anyone! In fact, they may be helping. Blue light can lower anxiety, according to chromotherapy experts; they also create an ideal environment for moping cinematically after a fight with your partner about whether or not he is a psychopath for eating kiwis with the skin still on, according to personal research.

Sure, it’s not going to cost taxpayers a penny to get the lights fixed, but why do they need to be “fixed” in the first place? I say we stop striving for some other city’s unrealistic ideals of what the quote-unquote right colour of light should be! It may be a scientific fact that drivers have better visibility in white light but it’s also a scientific fact that everyone looks great in blue (sources: Avatar 1 and 2, Blue Man Group). And I, for one, believe the time is ripe for Vancouver to take on a new nickname, and while none of my previous pitches (Seattle Junior, Crowtopia, Expensiveville West) have taken off, I think “Blue Light City” has a real ring to it. I can practically hear Tom Cochrane recording a stirring CanCon anthem about it now! And if he’s busy (he seems like the sort of guy who would have a full schedule of stuff like boat repair or mud-wrestling the members of Bachman–Turner Overdrive), it would be easy enough to adapt existing hit songs to show our civic pride. For instance: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” can become “I Guess That’s Why They Call It Blue City” with just a few tweaks; “Blue [Light City] Christmas” could be a modern holiday classic.

So stand with me, awash in indigo, and ask the City of Vancouver to leave these beautiful bulbs be. We might be feeling blue, yeah—but I think we can agree we’re feelin’ all right.

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This story was originally published in the September/October 2023 print issue of Vancouver Magazinefind the digital issue here.

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