Call follows RAC report showing impact of higher costs on those who rely on cars

Sustrans has called on local authorities to invest more in walking and cycling to provide alternative transport options for people forced to reduce their reliance on their cars as the cost of motoring continues to escalate, with the RAC saying that nearly half of drivers have cut down the number of trips they make.

The finding was revealed as part of the RAC’s annual Cost of Motoring Report, which also highlighted that motorists living in rural areas were more disadvantaged than those in towns and cities since they lacked a similar level of alternative options.

Some 86 per cent of people in rural areas say that it would be difficult for them to use their cars less compared to 69% of urban dwellers, but when it comes to those who have already stopped using their cars for some journeys for financial reasons, a greater proportion of people living in the country have been forced to react – 40 per cent, compared to 32 per cent.

Meanwhile, the sample of 1,000 motorists also highlighted an issue of high importance to cyclists – the state of the country’s minor roads. Fully 92 per cent said that their quality and condition had got worse over the past 12 months, compared to 78 per cent who said the same of motorways and main roads.

Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist, commented: “This year’s Report on Motoring shows the tough choices being made by many motorists, with rural drivers hit the hardest as they have little alternative but to use their cars. Peoples’ ability to live their lives and do the most basic of tasks, such as visit family and take their children to after school activities, is being threatened – and it looks like it’s only going to get worse.

“UK drivers want action from the Government. They already pay the highest duty and tax on fuel in Europe. At the very least, we are calling for fuel duty to be frozen and scheduled inflationary rises to be scrapped. In addition the Government should look again at the fair fuel stabiliser so that increased revenue from high oil prices can be passed back to drivers.”

However, Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive of Sustrans, said that local authorities should help motorists cope with the rising cost of using their cars by investing in sustainable alternative modes of transport that would encourage them to reduce their reliance on four wheels.

“With petrol prices at record highs, the cost of doing so many local journeys by car is increasing and this doesn’t look like it will change,” he explained. “Local journeys make up sixty seven per cent of all trips and now the sheer cost of a quick one mile school-run or three mile commute into work is becoming a real financial burden. Recent statistics show that saving money is a major reason why people use the National Cycle Network.”

Mr Shepherd added: “Enabling people to make short local journeys without having to use their cars is the key and that means investing in walking and cycling as an integral part of the local transport network as well as in public transport. It not only gives people more choice about how they get around and helps people financially, but also helps tackle the increasing burden of more inactive lifestyles on the UK’s health service.”

According to the latest igures released by Sustrans, last year 25 per cent of all journeys made on the National Cycle Network, which it develops and maintains, were related to commuting and work, emphasising its potential as an alternative to the car for everyday travel.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.