Nottingham has been named as England's least car-dependent city in a survey of 19 major towns and cities across the country, with Milton Keynes occupying the position of shame at the foot of the table.
The survey, carried out by green lobbying group Campaign for Better Transport, assessed each community using 17 indicators of car dependency that were split into three broad categories: accessibility and planning, quality and uptake of public transport, and walking and cycling. The combined total then gave an overall rank for each town and city.
Winning factors for Nottingham were its award-winning bus services, its use of the tram and a bias against out-of-town shopping centres. Milton Keynes, on the other hand, is criticised for its over-reliance on the car.
Nottingham has invested in 30 miles of cycle tracks and has a nine-mile tram network and 230,000 miles of bus journeys per week. "It ranked highly for factors such as bus patronage, satisfaction with bus services and low car use for the school run. As well as having an efficient bus service, the new expanding tram system is now used by 10 million passengers a year," said CBT.
According to a report in the Guardian, four out of 10 journeys in and out of central Nottingham were made by car at the beginning of the decade but the opening of a tram service and increased investment in buses has tipped the balance in favour of public transport.
London could only manage second place in the survey, despite a multi-billion pound taxpayer investment in the capital's tube and bus services and Mayor Boris’s high-profile support of cycling.
Brighton & Hove came third, reflecting its much-admired bus network, its strong rail links with London and a size perfectly pitched for commuting cyclists and walkers. The survey says there’s been a 27% increase in cycling in the city since it joined the Cycling Demonstration Town programme.
Languishing at the other end of the table are Luton, Peterborough and – right at the bottom – Milton Keynes. The CBT survey said: "Milton Keynes was designed for the car. Those with cars can get to work in under 10 minutes, but those without a car struggle to get around. Travelling by public transport is a poor alternative."
Peterborough is commended for improving its public transport in recent years, but CBT says the city is building on a "very low starting point." There are some encouraging signs – cycling provision has improved greatly and the number of car journeys has fallen by 9%.
Luton is blighted by the presence of the M1, according to CBT. The report says the densely-built town has inaccessible areas, causing congestion problems at peak times. Buses don’t run often enough and aren’t punctual enough – although there is a multi-billion pound busway development underway.
CBT said the survey was a warning to the government that cutting regional transport spending – £309m has already been slashed from local budgets by the Department for Transport this year – would be a further blow to the unemployed, who may not own a car or be able to afford the cost of driving to work or job interviews.
A further £1.6bn of local transport schemes are on hold as the DfT awaits the outcome of next month's comprehensive spending review. Stephen Joseph, CBT's executive director, said the survey was a warning to Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, whose department is responsible for planning. "If you make it impossible for people to get to places without using cars, it will make it more difficult for people to get out of welfare and into work. This report is as much a message for Eric Pickles as it is for Philip Hammond [secretary of state for transport].”
Purely against the survey’s walking and cycling measures, Milton Keynes does much better, managing fourth place. Nottingham holds onto top slot, with Manchester and Cambridge in joint second, and Brighton & Hove in fifth.
Find out where your city came in the survey on the CBT website, where you’ll also find a downloadable copy of the full survey.
What do you think of the survey? Does Nottingham deserve to be top dog? Is Milton Keynes being treated unfairly? A recent Cycling Plus survey put Bristol at the top of the league of bike-friendly cities, with Nottingham in sixth place – which is exactly where Bristol comes in the CBT ranking of walking and cycling cities. They can’t both be right…