Less traffic, more cycling: boosting alternatives to car use

It’s time to create a better, fairer and affordable transport system – one where people have more choice in how they travel and aren’t reliant on a car to get about
As a society, we need less traffic and more alternatives to driving

But what’s driving got to do with cycling? Everything. Cycling means:

  • Parents freed from the congested school run
  • Peaceful town centres where businesses can thrive
  • Clean air where we live and work
  • Affordable alternatives for families spending thousands running a car
  • Healthier, faster, more enjoyable commutes
  • All while tackling climate change and supporting the NHS by helping people lead healthier, happier lives

Best of all, the evidence shows that wherever you reduce the number of cars, you increase cycling.

Sound good? That’s why we are campaigning for government to act now to provide better transport choices and affordable alternatives to using a car, and an end to society’s reliance on the car.

Cycling that’s easier than driving

The simple reality is that most people choose the transport option that’s easiest for them, if affordable.

Decades of car-focused investment and town planning has meant that most of the time, for most people, that’s driving. It’s little wonder our roads are getting busier and busier – government predictions show that motor traffic will grow by 54% in the next 35 years without a radical new approach.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

By directing some of the huge funding allocated to making driving easier towards cycling and public transport instead, we can unlock the benefits of a society where people have real transport options for everyday local journeys.

The bottom line is this:

To end reliance on cars, we can’t just make cycling easier. We have to make cycling easier than driving.

How do we make it happen?

We are campaigning for action to rebalance out transport system – for better transport options for all and quieter streets for cycling.

We can all do our bit to drive less and cycle more, but the onus is on governments and councils across the UK to enable societal change, by putting policies in place and making proactive changes to our transport systems which help us to choose cycling, walking, wheeling and public transport rather than using a car.

It all starts with a change of mindset, and the Welsh and Scottish Governments are already forging ahead, although in different ways. The Scottish Government is committed to reducing car journeys by 20% by 2030, whereas the Welsh Government has introduced sustainability tests it will apply when considering future road building plans.

What does that look like in practice?

The solutions won’t be the same everywhere, and include local interventions and national action, but alongside investment to make cycling and public transport easier, measures could include:

  • Congestion and air-quality zones to tackle the disproportionate negative impact private cars have on congestion and air quality
  • Interventions to ensure residential roads are not used as busy rat runs
  • New housing developments with strong cycling, walking and public transport links
  • A vehicle tax system which better reflects relative environmental harm

It means governments setting out and delivering on measurable targets not just to increase cycling, but to reduce driving.

That doesn’t mean no one should ever drive, but that we should be actively creating affordable, easy and safe alternatives to driving.

So although the solutions will vary, the end results could be the same: a healthier, happier, greener society, where cycling is the natural and safe choice for shorter journeys.

Why now?

Transport is the UK’s most polluting sector, so we cannot tackle the climate crisis without reducing the amount we drive. At the current rate of reduction, our transport emissions won’t hit net zero for 600 years.

Meanwhile, half of people feel they have no alternative to owning a car, which often costs up to a fifth of annual income, exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis.

Yet failure to invest in real alternatives means that 52% of journeys under five miles are made by car.

Shifting investment away from driving and towards cycling and public transport won’t just help the planet, it will help people break out of poverty and enjoy healthier lives.

Help us make it happen

The best way to support a future where cycling is the easiest option is by joining Cycling UK: our campaigning work is funded by our members, enabling us to advocate for real change, while you get a huge range of other member benefits.

You can also sign up for updates and take a look at our Cycle Advocacy Network to get involved in tacking car dependency where you live.