British Summer Times comes to its official end this Sunday which means mornings get lighter and evenings get darker
“All good things must come to an end” isn’t a phrase we necessarily agree with. Bike riding certainly doesn’t have to come to an end when the weather turns, but sadly long summer evenings do.
British Summer Time also enjoys its last moments of 2017 this weekend. The clocks go back on Sunday 29 October at 2am (which will become 1am), reverting to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
In a way, this is the good one – we get an extra hour in bed. But it also means that whilst the mornings will be brighter for a while, we’ll be plunged into darkness at about 5pm going forwards.
By December, we can expect the sun to be rising at 8am and setting at 4pm in London.
We’ll remain at GMT until Sunday March 25, 2018, when British Summer Time (BST) resumes.
Remind me: why do we think it’s a good idea for the clocks to change?
It is believed that the idea of changing the clocks was first suggested by American politician and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, in 1784. In the UK, the pioneer was builder William Willett, who began his fight for British Summer Time, also known as Daylight Saving Time, in 1907.
Willett felt that people were wasting daylight hours in bed during the winter months. He argued that the change would improve health and happiness and save the country a whopping £2.5 million.
The builder published a pamphlet (as you did in those days) called ‘The Waste of Daylight‘ and the suggestion was introduced in Parliament via the Daylight Saving Bill in 1909, but was unsuccessful.
Eventually the idea was adopted in Britain in May 1916 – the decision was in part influenced by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 which made saving coal a priority. Sadly, Willett died of the flu just a year earlier so never got to see the change take place.
With fewer people out working in the very early hours of the morning under modern lifestyle changes, there’s been campaigning to abolish the rule. It’s also been suggested that BTS remains during the winter months, and ‘double summertime’ be applied to the summer months, putting the UK one hour ahead of GMT during winter, and two hours ahead during summer.
However, it’s still believed that the lighter mornings of the existing GMT we adopt can help to reduce road traffic accidents during the combined school run and work commute – but of course this does mean that the after-work period is flung into greater darkness.
What does the change mean for cyclists?
There might be lots of debate surrounding the clocks changing – but the fact is that currently we still use GMT in the winter and BST in the summer.
Firstly – we all get an extra hour in bed on Sunday October 29. Secondly, our morning commutes are going to get a bit lighter and evening commutes are going to get darker.
“As we lose an hour this weekend, for many people out cycling, especially for commuting or making the journey to school, it’s increasingly likely these journeys will be made in darkness,” says Cherry Allan, Cycling UK’s Campaigns and Policy co-ordinator.
“It’s time to light up, not just so cyclists can see where they’re going but also to help you be seen by other road users. Cycling UK always asks for people driving to be aware of cyclists and give them plenty of space when overtaking, but especially now that the evening commute for the vast majority of people is in darkness.”
It’s a legal requirement that all cyclists have a white front and red rear (flashing or not flashing, either is fine) fitted to their bicycle when riding before dawn and after dusk.
What bike lights should you look for?
Bike light brightness is expressed in lumens.
Front bike lights can be designed for ‘seeing’ or to ‘be seen’. The former class highlights the road in front of the rider, allowing them to see where they’re going. These need to be over 700 lumens. Very bright lights with well over 1000 lumens are available, but over 1000 should be adequate if you want to see the road well in advance and ride at similar speeds as you would during summer.
Those who just want to ‘be seen’ need fewer lumens, 100 is a nice benchmark. Rear lights don’t need to carry as many lumens and might be around 20-100 – they can be flashing or steady.
Don’t get caught out – bike lighting tips to keep you shining
It’s easy to get out of the ‘bike light’ routine after a long summer of chilled out evening ambles – especially if you’re not a regular commuter and just pull the lights out from time to time for the annual chaingang effort.
Here are a few tips to help keep you lit:
Don’t mount your light only on your helmet
Many ‘seeing’ lights come with helmet mounts, great for lighting the road exactly where you want to go – but no good for other road users if you happen to have your head turned the other way at a junction. It’s fine to mount a light on your helmet, but you must have one on your handlebars too. This should be sat centrally or or to the offside, positioned up to 1.5m from the ground, according to safety guidelines.
Dip ‘seeing’ lights when in urban environments
Have you ever had a driver leave their full-beam headlights on whilst driving towards you on a country lane? It’s not very nice. So bear this in mind if you’re using a very high lumen light, as this will have much the same effect. Dial it down when riding in urban environments where the roads are lit anyway, and when there’s oncoming traffic.
Check nothing covers your rear light
Saddlebags are a particular culprit, though hybrid bike riders who adopt a more upright position than those riding traditional road racing bikes can also end up covering a rear light with a long coat. If you’ve got an aero seat post, make sure you get a light that is designed for this – many come with an add-on capable of mounting the light so it points straight behind you.
A cheap pair of back-up lights will set you back about £20 and could be a life save should anything go wrong with your primary pair when you’re half way between work and home. Having two rear lights fitted at all times isn’t a bad idea, since you’ll be the last to know if one fails.
Don’t forget to charge them
It sounds simple – but no one wants to finish a long day only to realise they have to wait another two hours at work for the lights to charge. If yours need charging per journey, set a reminder in your calendar to charge them when you get to work and at home.