Headlines: July 6th, 2006

Local authorities are accused today of not doing enough to help motorists make greener, cleaner personal transport choices. The RAC Foundation says one in five car journeys do not need to be made by car but authorities need to do more to promote green motoring and it is calling on councils to stop viewing all motorists as intruders.Edmund King, executive director of the Foundation will tell the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth today that over the past ten years the number of trips made by car has risen by three per cent and the distance travelled by 10 per cent but 20 per cent of car journeys could be made by other means.

“However, in many local authorities, transport choice is Hobson’s choice. In order to get to work on time, visit families or take the kids to school, it is the car or nothing,” he says. Decision makers, he argues, need to engage seriously with the practical and emotional influences underpinning the fact that the car is the personal choice of the majority.

Mr. King will call on local authorities to demonstrate a more joined-up approach to transport policies, particularly on the question of the school run. He will point out that while in urban areas the school run makes up 13 per cent of traffic in the morning rush hour, rising to 21 per cent at 8.50 am, some local authorities are cutting back on free bus transport to faith schools to save money.

He acknowledges that councils outside London have limited powers to improve public transport but he will urge them to make more imaginative use of the powers they do have to encourage what he calls ‘a green shift’.

Mr. King will highlight research showing changing personal travel habits and attitudes. This shows an average person spends 360 hours a year travelling and covers 6,900 miles; most journeys of less than a mile are made on foot; 18 per cent of all trips are made by commuters, down five per cent since 1992; the average commuter travels 8.5 miles; the average distance walked has fallen 20 per cent in the past 10 years and the average distance travelled by local bus has fallen 11 per cent in the same period.

“Public policy could influence personal choice of vehicle by introducing imaginative incentives for residents who purchase hybrid, electric or alternative fuel vehicles. Some councils allow electric vehicles to park for free in metered bays, encouraging those who need to keep a vehicle in the city to make a green choice. Local authorities could also choose to allow low-carbon vehicles to use bus lanes, or to provide public re-charging points for electric vehicles whose owners can’t charge them at home,” Mr. King says.