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Around the ring road in 80 days - England’s worst and best cities judged on ‘car dependency’

The Campaign for Better Transport, a ‘green transport’ campaigning charity who’s president is Michael Palin, has rated 26 cities in the England for their dependency on the car - ranking London as top city, followed by Brighton and Hove then Nottingham as least car-dependent.

The worst city for dependency on the car (of the areas selected by population) was Wigan, with Peterborough and Colchester close behind.

The group said its Car Dependency Scorecard 2012 survey ‘shows how sensible investment in sustainable transport can give people more choice about how they travel’. 


Using data the criteria included:

  • Accessibility and planning 
  • Quality and uptake of public transport 
  • Walking and cycling as alternatives
  • Driving and car use

Their first Car Dependency Scorecard was published in 2010, in which Nottingham came top, followed by London and Brighton. The same three cities make up the top three in 2012 due to investment in transport and what the Campaign call ‘forward-looking travel plans’. Transport investment in the run up to London 2012 was one of the factors that elevated the capital, with the new infrastructure claimed as encouraging more people to use public transport instead of driving.


The cities that ranked bottom of the table were judged as having poor accessibility to services and high numbers of people using cars to commute to work. Milton Keynes, which came last in 2010, was judged as have improving its position but the cities lower in the table were not measured then. Cities at the bottom of the table were also judged not likely to improve in the future due to their travel plans that placed, it was considered, too much emphasis on road infrastructure, cheap parking, and/or placing new business parks and homes where they would generate additional car journeys - and ‘lack the foresight to suggest more cost-effective ways to improve public transport to aid everyday journeys for their residents’.


The most improved city since 2010 was Southampton, judged as climbing five places to fifth, due to new partnerships between local councils and public transport operators.


In the 2011 European Car Dependency Scorecard the group reported that all the cities measured compared badly to ‘European neighbours on transport provision’, due to ‘poor air quality, high levels of congestion and, excepting Cardiff, the high cost of public transport’.


The full ranking (from least car dependent to most):

  1. London
  2. Brighton and Hove
  3. Nottingham
  4. Cambridge 
  5. Southampton
  6. Plymouth 
  7. Manchester
  8. Liverpool 
  9. Newcastle
  10. Bristol 
  11. Derby 
  12. Dudley 
  13. Leicester
  14. Swindon 
  15. Birmingham  
  16. Sheffield
  17. Coventry
  18. Sunderland  
  19. Gateshead 
  20. Leeds
  21. Bradford
  22. Luton
  23. Milton Keynes
  24. Colchester
  25. Peterborough 
  26. Wigan

Hopefully all these cities (and more) will consider these ranking on their merits - but a general pattern is the 60s/70s planned towns may start with a disadvantage compared to the more organic, and perhaps more prosperous, cities, that allow space for alternatives to the car.

Not that there’s any room for complacency in London, as - even when under the closest scrutiny - priorities appear skewed when cycling rights campaigners are arrested for demanding road space and days later an Olympic vehicle crushed the life from a cyclist in the London Olympic Park.



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