D.C. is the least well-lit of all the big cities I've visited. For whatever reason, there just isn't a whole lot of emphasis on street lighting; even in densely populated and re-gentrified residential areas, where you might expect a lot of auto and foot traffic, the streets stay surprisingly dark.
Of course, in a city plagued by muggings and other street crimes, this only serves to make things that much more creepifying. But the darkness problem seems to have at least been acknowledged. After the high-profile murder of a popular waiter walking home late near Dupont Circle, the National Guard brought bright floodlights into the neighborhood to light it up at all hours. Now, James' new favorite website DCist reports some community activists are trying to get D.C. to be more dilligent in fixing broken street lights, because... and I hope you're sitting down, because this news will rock your world... the city's DOT is not especially responsive when it comes to fixing broken lights.
Clearly, more light at night in dangerous neighborhoods would be a good thing, just as a common-sense safety issue. But this is D.C., where common sense is kidnapped and hunted down for sport on a desolate island with only rocks and a crude slingshot to defend itself. Naturally, we have residents complaining that roads like M Street in Georgetown are too bright.
I'm guessing we don't want to be reminded we live in a real city? Just a guess. Imagine a Manhattanite complaining that 5th Avenue is too bright. They would be openly mocked and told to move to Connecticut. And yet, here we have people arguring that, while brighter streets might save a few lives, the brightness keeps Muffy the poodle awake at night, and we can't have that, because she'll be all cranky in the morning when we take her to the doggy daycare on 18th.
Meanwhile, it's not just D.C. that could use more light. Even my neighborhood gets surprisingly dark at night. Not that my neck of Arlington is dangerous... the only unusual characters in my 'hood appear to be of the non-threatening variety (big shout out to Perpetually Drunk Lady, Confused Shirtless 7-Eleven Guy, and Transvestite Cheerleader Guy). But once you veer away from Lee Highway and into purely residential territory, the few street lights there are low, dim, and far apart.
I'd rather live somewhere that's walkable at night, and where you're encouraged to enjoy what a city has to offer at all hours. But then, if I always got what I wanted, I'd be too busy catching the winning space-touchdown in the Galactic Super Bowl to write this.