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.


mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 6 years ago

RAC saying that nearly **have** of drivers have cut

I hate spell-checkers exactly cos they miss this stuff

mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 6 years ago

On the substance of the article - it's hardly surprising that the RAC and Sustrans make different recommendations based on the same survey results - but I must say I always shake my head when I see a neighbour doing a "school run" of only a couple of miles or "nipping to the local shop" in their cars - there are just so many reasons why walking or cycling makes more sense.

Tony Farrelly [2927 posts] 6 years ago

It's more enjoyable for a start, and I mean both walking and cycling on that one - for journeys of less then a mile I often prefer to walk than to ride cos I reckon I'll spend some of the time saved in travelling looking for somewhere to lock the bike.

Thanks for the typo spot too mad_scot_rider

vorsprung [282 posts] 6 years ago

I read this as yet another desperate attempt by Sustrans to get more funding from the squeezed public sector

The RAC report said that the state of minor roads was of concern in rural areas and that drivers had already cut their journeys.

Sustrans have twisted this round to say that people are using the so-called "National Cycle Network" more as an alternative to the car. Therefore they should get more $$$.

I don't see how this follows. You don't have to walk or ride your bike on Sustrans facilities. Can I suggest that this is not the case, given that there are far more roads than "National Cycle Network". The RAC survey claims that the change in behaviour is already happening, regardless of Sustrans.

As more people use bikes on the roads, driver behaviour will alter. It will alter because that cyclist is ahead is you on a wednesday, or your daughter or your mate Frank. Cycling will be normalized and not need special conditions.

Any cycling organisation should be supporting the RAC in it's efforts to improve surfacing on minor roads, as this helps everyone.

Paul M [363 posts] 6 years ago

I don't really follow what vorsprung is saying but it sounds like the usual CTC-hierarchy of provision bullsh*t. Sustrans has had to make some compromises which might have been better avoided, and sure it wants more money spent on off-road cycling alternatives - what's wrong with that? As for surfacing of minor roads, it is not their surfaces that worry me - it is their peril from motor vheicles, which are typically subject to the national single-carriageway speed limit of 60mph, are bendy and undulating, and create many opportunities for fatal conflicts - I generally feel safe on a London street, but never on the B roads around where I live.

As for the RAC, the real killer cost of motoring is not the price of petrol, and reducing duty merely exacerbates the problem by pusing up demand and thus pushing up the pre-duty price again. Insurance premiums are what hit people really hard, especially the young and the poor.

Simon_MacMichael [2507 posts] 6 years ago

In reply to Vorsprung, It's not just the NCN though, it's the other infrastructure that supports walking and cycling as well as public transport.

I live in a rural area (market town, pop 6,000) and can't cut down on car use because, well, I never got round to learning to drive in the first place and the wife's license lapsed after she moved over so we do without one.

I save the bike for rides out into the country, but even if I did ride down into town, there's only two actual bike stands here and they're pretty well camouflaged/hidden, so no-one uses them.

The few kids that do ride bikes here tend to stick to the pavement - we're on a major route in and out of the Cotswolds with a lot of HGV traffic and I can’t blame them for avoiding the road with the traffic round here.

There's a particularly bad pinch point in the high street where the pavement narrows on both sides, if an HGV and car are attempting to pass in opposite directions, there isn't enough room for them to pass. They still try though.

That point in the road, because of where it's located with shops on both sides, is a popular place for people to cross - but the nearest crossing (and the only official one in town) is 200 yards away. A 20mph speed limit would be useful, but we don't have one. A pensioner slipped on that pavement before Christmas - and was killed by a passing lorry.

If we want to go to the garden centre 10 minutes' walk up the road, we have to cross a busy road heading out of town three times as the pavement - well, more a dirt track - switches sides.

There's a lovely market town we can actually see from the pavement outside our front door, on a hilltop around ten miles away. It has nice shops we like to browse around. But it's over the border in Gloucestershire, and heaven forbid someone living in one county might want to get a bus to the one next door.

To get there by public transport - unless we want to go on a Thursday morning, and I've never actually seen the bus that supposedly does that trip – we have to get a bus to the nearest station, a train to the next one, then another bus. An hour and a half if you’re lucky. We usually end up biting the bullet and getting a cab instead - expensive but a hell of a lot easier (and actually, once you tot up those bus and train fares, not that much more).

That's just an illustration from my own experience of the barriers to get around that someone without a car in a rural area faces. I'm youngish, fit, don't mind walking and have the money to get a cab when all else fails. A lot of people - a pensioner in ill health on a state pension, or mother struggling with young kids - don't have that option.

As I said at the start, it’s not all about the NCN. More crossings, better pavements, joined-up public transport and ways of calming the traffic - a bypass isn't an option here and would also kill the town - would be a start but I'm not holding out hope it will happen any time soon with the emphasis placed on motor vehicles.

No wonder Jeremy bloody Clarkson lives here.

vorsprung [282 posts] 6 years ago
Paul M wrote:

I don't really follow what vorsprung is saying but it sounds like the usual CTC-hierarchy of provision bullsh*t. Sustrans has had to make some compromises which might have been better avoided, and sure it wants more money spent on off-road cycling alternatives - what's wrong with that?

Because these things are always a choice.

Fix the roads so they work properly for all traffic, or build a half baked cyclepath?

Incidentally, I have a lot of sympathy with the comments from Simon_MacMichael, I live in a rural area and the public transport is terrible

bikeylikey [232 posts] 6 years ago

There is little incentive to reduce car use when capital cost/depreciation, VED and insurance are fixed costs. Add in MOTs and repairs, and many car owners want to squeeze as much use out of their car as they can. Fuel is the only meaningful motoring cost which is linked to mileage. Roll on the day when mileages are recorded by satellite tracking, and VED and insurance are levied accordingly. That's when many, many people would cut their car use significantly.