As the clocks go back again the issue of whether they should or not has again climbed the political agenda with a private members bill currently going through the House of Commons proposing a trial move to so-called 'double summer time.' The suggestion is for a full independent review of such a move and now the Government itself is contemplating a three year trial if the Welsh and Scottish Governments agree.
The road safety charity BRAKE has also launched the Lighter Later campaign to lobby for the change which it says is supported by 67 per cent of people in the UK – according to polling figures compiled in conjunction with Autoglass.
Were the change to be made the clocks wouldn't go back one autumn and Britain would stay on British Summer Time (BST) throughout the winter - our clocks would also be synchronised with the rest of Europe - then the following spring clocks would go forward one hour to what is known as double summer time. Britain has twice in the past adopted double summer time, the first time was during WWII when it was used to help boost productivity and ensure that munitions workers got home safey rather than having to travel in the dark. The change was then tried again between 1968 and 1971.
The arguments put forward by safety campaigners for the change are that the extra hour of daylight in the mornings is wasted on many people who sleep through it and would be more effective for more people if it were at the end of the working day when tired drivers are more likely to make mistakes which have serious consequences for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. BRAKE say that 450 lives a year would be saved by such a move.
From a cycling point of view the move would dramatically decrease the number of days on which commuter cyclists in most of the country rode home in the dark – it would though increase the number of days on which they cycle to work in darkness. It would also lengthen summer evenings and the chances for riding without lights then, too.
The CTC broadly supports the private member's bill of Conservative MP Rebecca Harris on the basis that it would lead to a decrease in the number of road crashes and because of the savings in carbon emissions calculated as another benefit of the change. However the organisation does worry that cyclists will be more vulnerable to accidents involving crashes on ice on dark mornings when more such incidents are likely to take place.
However, Scottish politicians in particular are opposed to a change to double summer time because they believe it would lead to more road deaths in the North of Scotland. Interestingly though RoSPA Scotland has come out in favour of the BRAKE campaign saying, "All the evidence tells us that Scottish road users are much more vulnerable in the afternoon when they are tired and more likely to take longer, more digressive journeys.
"We’re confident that such an experiment would place beyond doubt the proposition that an extra hour of evening daylight would prevent a significant number of deaths and injuries on Scottish roads each year," RoSPA Scotland concluded.
The other body traditionally opposed has been Scottish farmers, but this week the NFU in Scotland backed Harris' bill, in a statement saying, "The effect on agriculture of changing the clocks by an hour has reduced over the years but it is important to bear in mind that regardless of what the actual time is on the clock, there are only a set number of daylight hours available to farmers in any one day, during which they still have to carry out the bulk of their daily work and enjoy some social life.
"The impact of any change to daylight saving time will not be uniform across the UK," the Scottish NFU continued, "so we need to analyse the particular Scottish impacts of such a change and the success of the planned private member’s bill may provide that platform."
The Government currently opposes the bill on the grounds that it does not seek consultation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. According to the BBC the Department for Business is going to table amendments allowing for consultation that would allow Westminster to support the bill.
In the meantime organisations such as BRAKE and the insurer Cycleguard are urging cyclists to break out the high-viz as the clocks go back, police forces across the country are preparing for their annual blitz on 'anti-social cyclists' who ride without lights and in a more constructive vein Madison, the distributor of Blackburn lights will be handing out free lights to commuters in London on Monday
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.