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UK roads have fewer cars but no celebrations yet

According to government figures obtained by the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) there were 220,000 less cars on the roads of the UK in 2009 compared to 2008.

This is the first time the number of cars on the road has fallen since 1946 and it represents a 0.7% fall from 31,252,476 in 2008 to 31,035,791 in 2009.

On Thursday the thisismoney website which is part of the same group as the Daily Mail was reporting that industry experts have blamed the fall on a combination of the recession, the government's scrappage scheme and authorities cracking down hard on unregistered and uninsured cars.

So why shouldn't cyclists be breaking out the champagne yet? The clue is in the far more widely reported items of news which show car sales for the first quarter of 2010 almost back where they were in 2008. The BBC shows SMMT figures for March 2010 up 26.6% on the same month in 2009 although that was 30% down on 2008. With three quarters of the year to run and still considerable doubt about where we're heading financially, it may well be that car numbers remain there-or-there abouts again for 2010.

It's still too early to call whether a transport corner has been turned but sustainable transport campaigners can look on the bright side with petrol prices at higher-than-ever levels and the end of the car scrappage scheme. Not only that but all the potential Prime Ministers in the forthcoming General Election have made pro-cycling noises in one way or another. A long sunny summer would help and this weekend looks like being a good start.