Chapter summary: Transport

Congested Britain? Public attitudes to car use

The coalition government’s transport strategy aims to tackle traffic congestion and the environmental damage caused by car use by improving public transport, promoting the use of low emission vehicles and changing public behaviour in relation to short journeys. Understanding public attitudes is vital, to determine how these strategies will work in practice.

Concern about the negative impacts of car use is widespread, particularly in relation to environmental damage, but it has declined.

  • 43% view congestion in towns and cities as a serious problem (down from 52% in 2001).
  • A clear majority are concerned about exhaust fumes from traffic (70%) and the effect of transport on climate change (68% – but this has fallen by 12 percentage points since 2005).

There is little public appetite for strategies to reduce car use, though a majority recognise people should do this for the sake of the environment. But there is clear capacity for changing public behaviour in relation to short car journeys.

  • There is little support for charging for road use; just one in five think people who drive on busy roads (19%) or at the busiest times (18%) should pay more. But more than half (57%) agree that those who drive cars that are better for the environment should pay less to use the roads than others.
  • 63% of people make a journey of less than two miles by car at least once a week. Around four in ten say they make journeys by car that could easily be completed by walking (41%), by cycling (43%) or on the bus (35%).

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