Peterborough most car dependent

Peterborough has been named the most car dependent city in England, according to a study by the Campaign for Better Transport. Colchester and Milton Keynes were the next on the list as the hardest places in the country to live without a car. Meanwhile, London, Manchester and Liverpool have emerged as the easiest. The new research, the 2014 Car Dependency Scorecard, compares how different towns and cities measure up in areas including public transport provision, facilities for cycling and walking and land use planning policies that support sustainable transport.

Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport, Stephen Joseph, said, ‘To be good places to live and work, towns and cities need good transport. The most successful places in our research give people a choice in how you get around. They have good quality public transport, plan new development thoughtfully and make it easy and safe for people to cycle and walk.’
‘There is a lot that Government can do to make our cities less car dependent. What emerges strongly from the research is that local control often goes hand in hand with smarter policies and better targeted investments. More devolution to English cities could mean more integrated and greener transport networks that make our towns and cities better places.’

Key findings

A key finding in the 2014 Car Dependency Scorecard was that London’s extensive public transport network and policies that encourage alternatives to driving make it the least car dependent city in the survey. According to the study, Manchester and Liverpool’s high ranking reflects policies in these cities to increase urban density by focusing development on brownfield sites. Both cities have achieved over 90% of new building on such sites. It outlines that there is also support for walking, cycling and public transport and potential for more devolved decision making in the future.

At the lower end of the table, the Scorecard shows the difficulty New Towns have with car dependency. Milton Keynes came last in many of the metrics. The report said the town’s ‘spread out, low density planning’ means longer distances for people to travel. It also stressed its road system is much better suited to car use than cost effective public transport. Similarly, the study suggested Peterborough has weaknesses in its public transport infrastructure and heavy reliance on cars.

Colchester ranked lowest for accessibility and planning. Out of all the cities, residents in the town are least likely to be able to get to primary school, work or the town centre by walking or public transport.

Newcastle, Cambridge and Brighton also rank highly because of investment in car-free transport options, despite having lower building density. All three outperform Leicester, Southampton and Luton despite their much higher population densities.

An intriguing aspect of the study was that Bradford and Dudley ranked as two of the lowest scoring locations (taking 23rd and 21st place respectively), despite both having respectable bus networks. Impacting Bradford’s overall score was the fact it was the lowest ranked in cycling and walking provision, which is understandable considering its hilly topography.

The study suggests Dudley’s high score for brownfield development but low ranking overall shows that its ‘city centre intensification’, where urban density has been dramatically increased, must be accompanied with active support for sustainable travel modes if the opportunity of reducing car dependency is to be achieved. The Scorecard claims Dudley also suffers from a legacy of out of centre car based development, notably the Merry Hill Centre. While Dudley ranks in the top ten in the cycling metrics, it is in the bottom three for the proportion of people walking at least three times a week, with the latter lower ranking dragging down its overall position in the Scorecard. This could be coupled with Dudley’s fairly low rank on uptake of public transport, the use of which is often accompanied by walking.
The report said there are also a number of cities where bypasses are currently being considered, such as Stockport, Norwich and Northampton. It suggested the policy decision must be made whether to concentrate on building new roads and becoming more like the car dependent cities towards the bottom of the scorecard, or to choose another direction as cities at the top have done, with investment and encouragement of alternative modes of transport.

Visit to view the Scorecard.

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