Given that there were better things to do over the festive period than follow the news you might have missed news reports – including this in the Daily Mail – on the RAC Foundation’s comparison of 2001 and 2011 car ownership rates made possible by the recent publication of the latest Census.
The data shows that the East Dorset area has the highest number of cars and/or vans per head of population in England and Wales when measured by local authority. The table below gives the top ten places for car and van ownership and the full list of 348 councils is available here.
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A new report commissioned by NatCen has uncovered the feelings of the British public about the link between driving and the environment.
8 in 10 people agreed with the statement that current levels of car use are having a serious effect on climate change, and 6 in 10 said they believed individual action can make a difference.
Almost half of drivers said that they would be willing to reduce their car use for short journeys and had the capacity to follow this through, whilst 1 in 4 people said that they wouldn’t even consider the notion of leaving their car in the driveway. Middle groups also arose with 12% of drivers being in two minds about changing their ways but admitting that were able to do so. On the other hand, 18% said that they were willing to cut down on their car use but felt that they were unable to do so.
The RAC Foundation supports the use of sustainable travel and stresses that the relationship between cars and environmental damage is more complex than restraining use. Lower carbon cars, greener fuels, eco-driving and car sharing can all do their bit to reduce emissions if giving up the car completely is not an option.
Source: Car use and climate change: do we practise what we preach? Stephen Stradling in British Social Attitudes: the 24th Report
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Those who make use of their local bus service are too often faced with the conundrum of whether to wait for a late bus, take the car or walk to their destination if it is near enough to do so.
The California Institute for Technology have researched into this question and have found that it is almost always better to sit down and wait for the bus rather than walk (the car was not included in the equation!). Complex equations were used to devise and back-up this theory, which stood up to all circumstances appart from if there is fewer than one bus per hour – which is unfortunately often the case in more rural parts of the UK.
This research provides some good advice when dealing with the often unrealiable bus service in the UK, but lets hope this theory is used less as the Government’s promised bus service improvements come on stream. Without reliability and service improvements the default option for the majority continue to be the car – where waiting does certainly not come into the equation.
(Source: The Mail 24th January 2008)
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After reading through the papers today, two very choice articles and links are worth mentioning…
- ‘Council house OAPs will be bribed to move out to the country’ (Daily Mail 13.12.07)
Pensioners will be encouraged to give up council houses in cities and move to the country in order that their homes can be given to families to ease overcrowding, in a proposal from ministers yesterday.
- ‘ Food deserts depriving towns of fruit and vegetables…it is particularly problematic for residents without cars’ (The Independent 13.12.07)
The demise of greengrocers has turned large areas of the country into ‘food deserts’ according to a new report from Harper Adams University College, in Shropshire. the report found that aruond 20% of rural areas and 25% of urban areas were ‘food deserts’ where people have to walk more than 500 metres to reach a shop selling a good amount of fruit and vegetables.
The conclusion…moving older people out into the countryside, where they will find it difficult to access basic services might not be such a good idea after all!
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The Department for Transport, this summer, published a report on the travel aspirations, needs and behaviour of 16- 25 year olds which highlighted how young people in Britain get from A to B and their feelings on the transport choices available to them.
The main findings:
- Triggers on the road to adulthood, such as moving to university or starting a new job, lead to changes in travel and transport use.
- Overall, young people did not have a clear picture about how much they spent on travel.
- Both advantages (e.g independence) and disadvantages (e.g. responsibilty), of car travel were flagged up.
- Almost half (48%) of 17-25 year olds hold a driving license and cars are used for the majority of this age group’s trips.
- When choosing a car, practical, social and cultural considerations were taken into account.
- There were varied feelings about having to rely on other people for lifts ( especially where local transport provision was poor). This depended on the age of the young person, whether the driver was a family member or not, and whether the designated driver was happy to provide a lift. The main restriction of this travel option was not being able to plan last minute trips or stay out till the early hours.
- Limited public transport was met with feelings of a lack of control on personal travel. Also on a concerning note, lack of public transport after school hours meant that students often found it difficult to take part in after school activities.
- Recommendations for transport included: a need to reduce its environmental impact; increase social inclusion; improve the general quality and extent of local provision; enforce rules regarding payment of fares, road tax and insurance; and extend concessions.
- A lack of consideration for the impact of transport on the environment and health was seen as a local concern and an issue for collective reponsibility.
- Both push and pull mechanisms are involved in young people taking up driving lessons, whilst barriers to their uptake, namely cost, also exist.
- Some respondents said their travel choices reflected the travel behaviour of their older family members e.g. one girl said that she has always travelled by bus because her Mum had always done and she assumed this was the only viable option.
- There appeared to be different levels of tolerance regarding different public transport modes. People were more understanding about delays with trains than they were with buses, believing train delays to be unpreventable but bus delays to be down to staff error.
- There was a clear variation in local knowledge of public transport e.g. bus routes.
- Different transport modes were linked to different identities.
- Mood, time, money, weather, activities planned for the day and whether individuals were travelling alone or in a group, were all factors which led to people temporarily changing the mode used.
- Where criteria for choosing a college or university were equal, ease or cost of travel can be the deciding factor, often choosing students to opt for the institution closer to home.
- Some people’s transport choices were automatic, with one clear choice standing out; others were more considered- trialling different modes and weighing up the pros and cons of each; others were interdependent i.e. only one transport mode might be appropriate; whilst some, quite interestingly were, well- quite easy! as the preferred transport mode was what determined the choice of destination and not the other way around.
The RAC Foundation supports the DfT in their recommendation that young people’s views on transport must be listened to so that suitable improvements to provision can be made to meet their needs:
“Transport is both an enabler and a barrier to young peole’s access to employment, education and leisure” (DfT)
In addition, the DfT emphasise that if young people are educated about the environmental impacts of various transport modes then they will be able to make a better informed choice as to how they will travel.
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Today saw the release of Road File 2007/08 from the Road Users’ Alliance (RUA); an edition which clearly highlighted the paucity of motorways in the UK in comparison to other EU countries.
The RUA Road File stresses the adverse impact that a lack of road capacity is having and will have on the UK’s economy, as well as safety and the environment.
On the economy, the effect that an insufficient motorway network will have on foreign investment was raised, as was the problem of congestion on business productivity, echoing Eddington’s research that congestion costs the UK £7-8 billion a year.
Public demand for more roads was also an issue which the Road File could not ignore, reminding us that in terms of cost, time and convenience, the car comes out a winning option. Unfortunately for car lovers, this high demand is simply not being met in the UK, whereas our European neighbours appear to have quite a bounty of highway…
A comparison with Germany:
- Motorway density: For every 1000km2 of land in the UK, there are 15km of motorway. In Germany, there are 35km of motorway.
- Share of GDP on building motorways: In the UK, for every billion dollars of GDP, there are 2km of motorway. In Germany, there are 5.5km.
Question: Is it right that £45 billion is collected from motorists every year, yet only £7.5 billion is spent on roads?
- Ratio of motorways to cars: The UK has 8,000 cars for every km of motorway. Germany has half the number of cars for every km.
So, the pressing question from the RUA- why can’t the UK build more roads?
If the road network capacity is not increased, congestion will have to be reduced by other means. One suggestion, of course, is road user charging, which in turn would produce revenue to help fund the construction of an increased road network.
In research conducted by the Department for Transport, over half of those questioned (55%)said they believed that the amount of £ motorists pay should relate to how often, when and where they use the road.
Finally, the creation of motorways can bring about both environmental and safety benefits:
- Replacing a 2 lane road with a motorway would decrease carbon monoxide emissions by 48%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 61% and CO2 emissions by 26%.
- Motorways are 5 times safer than single lane roads.
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54% of people disagree with the idea that “people should be able to use their car as much as they like, even if it causes damage to the environment”according to the new DEFRA e-digest on public attitudes and behaviours towards the environment released today.
Over half also agreed that they “would like to reduce their car use but find there are no practical alternatives”, which once again illustrates the viscious circle linked with poor public transport options and high car use. Our car dependency report found that 20% of the population had the ability to switch modes and this has remained relatively constant throughout the years. I think we already know what next years e-digest report will say…the real question is how long will it take for government to successfully implement solutions to allow those who desire to reduce their car use.
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Whilst we all know the benefits to be gained from reduced car usage, i.e. environmental- CO2 reduction and health benefits- if opting for cycling or walking as opposed to another petrol burning vehicle, we also know why more people don’t get rid of their cars- their practicality and convenience.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University have written a report proposing the banning of cars in Central London and outer London to reduce CO2 emissions.* There are extensive public transport links in inner London (not so much in the outer areas) which suit a large proportion of Londoners, but what would service vehicles, medical professionals, taxis and disabled people do- let alone those in the outskirts needing the cars for household chores or even getting to work – for these groups the car makes their mobility needs possible.
Even for people who travel on foot and public transport during the working week, using a car to go and visit grandma on the other side of London is so much easier than taking the kids on the bus, then the tube, then another tube, then the bus- and then the same on the way home. Alternatively, if car banning was taken to the extreme and suggestions were made to apply the rule to regions rather than single cities- the freedom to leave your city without bundling onto an overcrowded train would be ended.**
Another example of the undeniable appeal and socially etched necessity of the car is the uproar arising from calls from city planners in Los Angeles to be allow developers to build apartments without any parking allocated providing their are alternative transport means nearby.***
On the other hand, the benefits of a car free life are being seen in America. A new study titled A Silver Lining? The Connection Between Gas Prices and Obesity highlighted that when petrol prices have risen in the USA, obesity rates have fallen. This is because high petrol prices are either pushing people out of their cars and onto the footpaths and public transport, or keeping them away from calorific restaurants and fast food joints because they need to keep their money for fuel.
Reducing car use where possible by using other types of transport, or by not travelling at all must of course be encouraged in a world where were are facing the problem of climate change, but banning all cars is an impractical solution, which will not be warmly received by the millions of motorists who rely on their cars to go about their daily lives.
Sources: * BBC News
** Taking transit ‘out’ of the city
*** Changing the car culture of Los Angeles
**** The Independent 13/09/07
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Scottish drivers are driving further than ever before according to new figures. Last year a billion more kilometers were driven in comparison to 2005, which amounts to the largest increase in four years.
More people than ever are choosing to travel by car, despite the efforts of the Scottish Executive to encourage people to travel by car. The new figures from the Scottish Executive’s ‘Main Transport Trends’ show that road traffic increased last year from 42.7 to 43.8 billion vehicle kilometers, in comparison to a rise of just 12 million in 2005. This traffic growth has been accompanied by a decline in railway passenger growth. These results show that car dependency is certainly not a phenomenum specific to England alone and that a great deal more needs to be done to entice people out of their cars when it is suitable and possible to do so.
Source: The Scotsman 21st August 2007
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Today is Ride to Work Day, part of National Motorcycle Week. I rode to work this morning from the Ace Cafe as one of the MCI’s Bike Squads. Riding to work is great, it gets the brain up and running better than any caffeine injection – you’ve got to be thinking three times faster than your wheels so that, like some sort of traffic grand master, you can predict what moves everyone else is going to make several plays in advance, in order not to be there when that taxi u-turns without warning into one of your many potential paths. So when you get to your desk, you’re already wide awake and ready for the day.
And as predicted by the RAC Foundation last month, riding to work saved me 50% on my normal travel time – 30 mins instead of an hour by tube and bus.
But there’s a cloud on the horizon – the riding in part is great, but finding somewhere safe to leave 2 metres of Triumph remains a challenge. The popularity of motorcycling in London has soared since the introduction of the C-charge and the 7 July public transport bombings – but the number of spaces provided by the councils hasn’t kept pace. So unless you’re in with the lark, your chances of finding enough tarmac are slim:-
And the lack of space leads to an expectation that the next person along can shuffle your bike along a bit if they need to. Now, no-one touches my bike except me (and the volunteers who help me pick it up when I drop it – thanks, all!) so this particular piece of parking etiquette causes me great anxiety!
Westminster Council announced at the beginning of the year that they were giving thought to providing more motorcycle spaces. It would give 2-wheel commuting a big boost if they press ahead with redesignating some bays as a matter of urgency. And if the new spaces have built-in ground anchors, even better.
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