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Which are the most car dependent cities?

Sian Berry's picture

28 August 2012: London, Brighton and Hove and Nottingham top our transport table, while the people of Wigan are rated the most dependent on cars to get around.

Car Dependency Scorecard 2012 cover Today we've published our latest Car Dependency Scorecard, which looks carefully at a wide range of information about cities' performance in transport, planning and providing alternatives to the car, then ranks them according to which do best for reducing car dependency.

Since 2010 when we last carried out a similar study, London has moved to the top of the table, while Brighton and Hove came second and Nottingham third. The same three cities make up to the top three as last time, and this is no surprise since all of these places have made a point of putting long-term effort and investment into improving their areas for non-drivers and better public transport.

At the other end of the table, Wigan was rated the most car dependent, with Colchester and Peterborough joint second from bottom. Wigan's long-term strategy seemed to involve building several more roads in the area, so we also gave it low marks for future planning. London's future plans also scored less well than might be expected because of concerns we have about the Mayor's focus on 'smoothing traffic flow' and his support for new car-based crossings of the Thames.

Cities where the majority of citizens are dependent on the car are not only bad for those struggling to find the money to own and run their cars (most of whom would no doubt welcome the choice of getting around in other ways for many journeys), they are appalling for people who don't have a car. Not being able to drive or find alternative transport can make essential services like shops, GPs and schools hard to reach or even impossible to get to, leading to real social exclusion. People in car dependent cities are also likely to suffer more from the effects of the congestion, pollution, noise, and safety problems cause by heavy traffic. 

But car dependency can be reduced. Outside London, the top cities in our scorecard show that you don't need Olympic-sized levels of public transport infrastructure to make things better. Our highest climber since 2010 was Southampton, which rose five places overall to come fifth and climbed eight places in the Public Transport category alone. We believe this was down to a new partnership introduced between local councils in South Hampshire and public transport operators, which has made big strides in improving the quality of bus services across the area.

We want to know what you think about the rankings in our scorecard - do you agree with how we've assessed your home town? If we didn't included it among our 26 large urban areas, how do you think it would fare if we had? And what do you think are the best ways to improve city transport?

Tell us what you think here

Download the full report here (pdf)