Engineering and technical services consultancy Jacobs and Worcestershire County Council (WCC) have collaborated on developing and installing the first ‘bat-friendly’ highway crossing in the UK.
Worcestershire CC and its consultants Jacobs were developing a new ‘Toucan’ crossing on the A4440 trunk road for pedestrians, cyclists and those using mobility scooters that enhances local connectivity in the area. With a rare bat colony in the vicinity, the project team knew that there was a need to light the road for the new crossing, but they could not provide a dark area where the nocturnal mammals could fly from one side of the road to the other, as would be the conventional solution. Some species of bat do not interact well with white lighting; it can prevent them from accessing food and water if they are unwilling to cross lit areas such as roads. Bright street lights can also attract the insects that bats usually feed on, reducing food in the locations they would tend to feed.
Jacobs were aware of successful schemes in the Netherlands that had used red lighting to minimize the impact on wildlife and proposed this as an option to trial. While the road is illuminated with ‘typical’ white LED lights, the crossing is lit up with coloured LED lights to facilitate typical behaviour of bats, who respond to the red light as they would the dark, enabling them to fly and feed normally. The composition of the light has been developed to suit not just bats and other local wildlife, but residents and road users as well. The lights do not affect visibility for anyone using the road and conform to the required safety standards.
This is the first set of bat-friendly highway lights to be switched on in the UK, and if the trial is successful, the Institution of Lighting Professionals will update their national guidance and standards. Video footage has already shown the crossing being regularly used by bats. The project has won the Institute of Highway Engineers’ award for Environmental Sustainability Project of the Year, and the lights have been described as ‘ground-breaking’ by Ken Pollock, WCC’s cabinet member with responsibility for economy and infrastructure.
Project manager at Jacobs’ Worcester office, Stuart Morton, said, “We work on major projects all over the country which are nationally significant, but it’s extra special to contribute something as innovative and important as this back into our local community.”