London has bucked the national trend with even fewer households owning cars over the past decade, according to the census.
We should be building cities that make life better, and car-dependent cities don’t offer that. Cities should be places where getting a pint of milk doesn’t involve paying out for petrol, but rather a nice stroll to a local shop where perhaps you meet a neighbour along the way. Where the morning commute isn’t sitting behind a lorry in gridlock, but getting some exercise on the bike or reading the paper on the way in. And where going to the pub doesn’t mean the risk of getting behind the wheel whilst intoxicated, but knowing there will be public transport as a safe means of getting home.
When Ken Livingstone and I entered office at the beginning of the last decade, we set about implementing a vision of London where you didn’t need a car to get around. We made massive investments in buses and bus routes, encouraged cycling, and started a rail renaissance, complementing these measures with the congestion charge.
Now we’re seeing how this has paid off. While the average number of cars and vans increased everywhere else in England and Wales from 2001 to 2011, in London there was a rise in the number of households that went car-free. In the 14 inner London boroughs, car-free households increased from 50.6 per cent to 56.7 per cent. The trend held in the traditionally more car-oriented 19 boroughs of outer London as well, where 30.7 per cent of households are now car-free compared to 28.5 per cent a decade ago.