Only Rome scores lower than the capitals of home nations and Republic of Ireland, finds study

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin are amongst the most car dependent in Europee. The four capital cities of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom plus Dublin in the Republic of Ireland are among the worst of 13 major European cities surveyed by the Campaign for Better Transport Car for its Car Dependency Scorecard 2011. Only Rome, in 13th position, was found to have more reliance on the motor car than London, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and Belfast, which respectively occupied 8th to 12th place.

The scorecard ranks cities on 16 indicators grouped into five main areas – car use, public transport service, public transport cost, side effects of car use and cycling/walking – with each indicator ranked individually then combined with the others to provide an overall score.

Stockholm emerged as the least car-dependent city of the capitals surveyed – Copenhagen, for the record, wasn’t among those studied – scoring well on all indicators other than the cost of public transport. The modal share of walking and cycling was said to be particularly high despite the city’s poor climate in winter.

The Swedish capital was followed by Helsinki, Prague,
Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam
and Madrid on the list.

At the other end of the scale, the cost of public transport was the one issue on which Rome scored highly, although the network itself, and issues with reliability and coverage, among others, dragged it down. The Italian capital was said to have a particularly poor record for road safety.

The cost of public transport in London, plus poor air quality and levels of congestion, contributed to the city’s poor performance and are expected to be topics that feature in the mayoral elections next year.

While cycling was seen as an alternative mode of transport in all the UK cities surveyed, the study’s compilers said that uptake was low and singled out air pollution, the expense and low uptake of public transport and levels of congestion as factors behind their low ranking.

On the positive side, London scored well for low car ownership, Edinburgh for journeys on foot, Cardiff for road safety and Edinburgh for passenger satisfaction with public transport.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, comented: “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.”

The organisation outlined a umber of steps it believed UK governments should take to address the problem, but pointed out that currently, cuts to local bus networks have left many people without local transport and that train fare increases above the rate of inflation will prevent others from using that form of transport.

The recommended measures are:

  • 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.



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.