Last weekend, the clocks went back in the UK, reigniting the debate over British Summer Time. The Government are considering a three-year trial of a new system, aimed at providing lighter evenings, which would see the UK adopt Central European Time. In other words, clocks would be set to what is now BST in winter time and a new ‘double summer time’ would be introduced.
What would this mean for British cyclists? On the downside, there’d be more days when we’d make our morning commutes in the dark. But supporters of the change argue that because drivers tend to be more alert in the mornings, there’d be a reduction in accidents.
On the upside, the proposed switch would hugely increase the number of days when we’d be able to cycle home or pop out for a quick ride after work in daylight. It would also boost daylight hours in the middle of summer, meaning we could ride without lights well past 10pm.
Road safety charity Brake supports the proposals, saying it would cut deaths and serious injuries by an estimated 450 each year. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents takes a similar view, saying 80 lives would be saved and 212 serious accidents prevented each year.
National cycling organisation CTC are in favour of the Bill, insofar as it’s calling for research into the pros and cons of the issue. They aren’t unequivocally behind the change, however – mainly because of the risk of ice-related injuries for winter morning commuters.
British Summer Time, also known as Daylight Saving Time, was introduced in 1916 to make afternoons lighter for longer. Under the existing system, UK clocks are set to Greenwich Mean Time throughout the winter and then moved forward by one hour between the last Sunday of March and the last Sunday of October.
In a Private Members’ Bill, Conservative MP Rebecca Harris has called for a review of the potential costs of moving the clocks forwards one hour. Harris argues the switch would add extra daylight in the evenings where more people would see the benefit, rather having more early morning daylight which “a lot of us waste in bed”. The move would also be likely to have economic benefits.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will seriously consider the proposals but that the change could only be made with the support of entire UK. Ministers have written to their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts to seek agreement for a three-year trial.
In the past, the Scottish government has vehemently opposed such a change, arguing that it would result in months of dark mornings, especially in the north of the country. With a spokesman saying there’s no case for a change, it’s appears unlikely that nationwide support will be forthcoming anytime soon. Many farmers also oppose the change.