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UK cities bottom of Europe for car dependency

29 September 2011
New research published today (29 September) by Campaign for Better Transport reveals that UK cities are among the most car dependent in Europe, coming bottom of a study into car dependency.

The European Car Dependency Scorecard examines how the infrastructure and transport policies of 13 European capitals affect people’s transport choices and quality of life. The scorecard uses 16 indicators covering ease of access to public transport, public attitudes to car use, congestion levels and the side effects from cars to give each of the cities a score and then ranks them accordingly.

Whilst Stockholm, Helsinki and Prague grabbed the three top spots, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast were eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth respectively, only beaten to last place by Rome.

The scorecard revealed the best European cities to get around without a car are:

1. Stockholm
2. Helsinki
3. Prague
4. Paris
5. Berlin
6. Amsterdam
7. Madrid

Whilst the cities in the bottom half of the scorecard, which include all the UK cities, were judged to offer fewer incentives for people to opt for a car-free lifestyle:

8. London
9. Cardiff
10. Dublin
11. Edinburgh
12. Belfast
13. Rome

Stockholm took top spot as the least car dependent city thanks to low levels of car ownership, good public transport and a high percentage of people walking and cycling. Rome was the most car dependent city with the highest percentage of car ownership and road deaths, as well as low public transport passenger satisfaction.

The UK cities performed badly due to poor air quality, high levels of congestion and, with the exception of Cardiff, the high cost of public transport.

Despite having a good public transport network, London has the worst air quality and congestion of all the cities examined in the study. Londoners are also subjected to the highest fares. Public transport in Cardiff is cheaper than in the other UK capitals, but the city has the second lowest number of public transport trips per day and the lowest number of people commuting by public transport. Edinburgh was second only to London for congestion and worse than Rome or Paris. Belfast finished bottom of all the UK capitals despite having the longest cycling and public transport networks.

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said: “Car dependency damages communities, affects our quality of life and has huge environmental consequences, so the UK cities’ poor standing should be of major concern to politicians. To catch up with the best in Europe the UK Governments need to recognise the economic benefits of good air quality and road safety, and ensure public transport, walking and cycling are comparable to car use in terms of cost, journey time and quality.”

Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the UK Governments to support cities to reduce car dependency by:

•    Making public transport fares affordable, with smart cards valid on different modes and operators
•    Improving public transport journey times through bus priority, and investment in trams where appropriate
•    Giving pedestrians and cyclists real priority over other vehicle traffic, including at junctions
•    Supporting a good public transport network during off peak times, including evenings and weekends
•    Recognising the wider factors which affect car dependency, such as planning regulations

The research comes after sweeping cuts to local bus networks have left many parts of the country without proper public transport links and above inflation rail fare increases are threatening to force people off the trains.

Download the European Car Dependency Report in full.

Notes to Editors

1. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

2. Campaign for Better Transport launched the Fair Fares Now campaign in January to call for cheaper, simpler, fairer rail ticketing. Visit the website for more information www.fairfaresnow.org.uk

3. In the UK 29,000 people die prematurely every year due to poor air quality, more than 4,000 of them in London. Campaign for Better Transport is a supporter of the Healthy Air Campaign.