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The following article appeared on a www.BikeBiz.com webpage on Monday 21st March 2005

Half of all car trips could be history, no need for infrastructure tweaks

A major survey of travel behaviour in three English cities has revealed the bigger-than-expected potential for reducing traffic and tackling congestion through relatively small and simple changes to people's daily travel patterns. The research, conducted by Socialdata in collaboration with Sustrans, showed that walking, cycling or public transport provide a practical alternative for most people.

Twelve thousand people in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester were surveyed and the results provide a snapshot of how people travel and he changes that are possible to improve the quality of life for everyone.

In a typical week, residents of the three towns spend an average of one hour every day travelling and travel a distance of around 13 miles each. The greatest proportion of trips are made for leisure reasons, with shopping and work each accounting for around one in five trips and one in ten trips are for school or educational reasons. Around 25 percent of all trips are made on foot, 8 percent by public transport and 3 percent by bike. Nearly two-thirds of trips are in a car with 43 percent as a driver and 22 percent as a passenger.

Around 30 percent of car trips in each town were no longer than 2 miles, and the majority were within the towns surveyed.

But, while the evidence suggests an ongoing reliance on the car, Sustrans' researchers discovered that nearly all residents are unhappy with the increased traffic and support sustainable alternatives to car travel including public transport, cycling and walking. Nine out of ten people considered sustainable transport to be a priority for transport planners and their policies.

The research looked at the reasons for peoples' travel choices, from on-the-ground constraints such as inadequate bus service to the personal opinions that influence people's decisions. It concluded that significant change is possible even without improvements to transport infrastructure. Existing facilities for walking, cycling and public transport provide a viable alternative for nearly half of all car trips within each town.

"The three towns asked us to carry out the research to inform their Sustainable Travel Towns Programmes," said
Sustrans' senior projects officer James Ryle.

"The information reveals the enormous potential for people to occasionally leave their car at home and use alternative transport. This has very clear benefits - if everyone replaced just one return car journey per week with another way of travelling traffic would be reduced by more than 10 percent.

"All this is very positive news for the councils concerned. Their task will be to supply the information and motivation needed to enable people to make the change. This research challenges the notion that people are unable to make changes. We look forward to working with the councils to see these results turned into the positive action that will make a real difference to the lives of everyone living in these cities."

The full results of the travel surveys were presented at the Making Smarter Choices Work Conference in Darlington on 17th March. The Sustainable Travel Towns programme is a Department for Transport scheme which is focussing on three towns sharing 10m of government funding over five years to encourage more walking, cycling and public transport use.