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RAC Report on Motoring suggests 20% of drivers replacing vehicle journeys with cycling or walking

Survey still highlights "how dependent drivers are on their vehicles", with eight in ten saying they would struggle to adjust their lifestyle to being without a car...

The RAC's annual survey of motorists has been published, giving an insight into the behaviour and attitudes of those who drive on Britain's roads, with thoughts on cycling infrastructure, cyclist behaviour, replacing vehicle journeys with bicycle miles, and last year's Highway Code changes again featuring prominently.

It notes that in adapting to high fuel and electricity costs 20 per cent of drivers have tried to replace vehicle trips with walking or cycling where possible. Elsewhere, more than half of drivers (53 per cent) said they now generally walk or cycle short journeys, a similar figure to in 2022 (52 per cent).

Despite this, the RAC suggests the "UK's drivers remain highly reliant on their vehicles" and 82 per cent agreed with a statement that they would "find it very difficult to adjust to life without a car". In less densely populated areas, this figure was as high as 91 per cent.

> Cycle more, drive less once pandemic ends, urges AA president

A majority of drivers (55 per cent) did say they would be willing to use public transport for more journeys if the reliability, convenience or affordability was better.

The report suggests that around a quarter of drivers are also cyclists (23 per cent), with 12 per cent using their bikes at least once a month, a percentage which is the same as it was last year.

When it came to cycling-related measures that might reduce car dependency, just 24 per cent of drivers in urban areas, and 18 per cent in rural locations, believe more segregated cycle lanes would be effective, while just 15 per cent of urban drivers and eight per cent of rural drivers said the same about bike rental schemes.

In the section examining drivers' top concerns, a fifth (20 per cent) said cyclist behaviour was their "top concern".

"Legislation will just have to keep playing catch-up"

One concerning part of the report came when looking at non-compliance of road rules, with almost half (49 per cent) of under 25s surveyed admitting to "using a handheld phone for calls while driving", up from 34 per cent in 2022.

"Shockingly", the RAC says, 30 per cent of under 25s asked said they had engaged in a video call while driving, almost double the reported 17 per cent amount in 2022. In the same age group, 19 per cent said they had taken a photo or a video while driving.

And when looking at all drivers, 60 per cent said they had used their phone while in stationary traffic, while 12 per cent claimed they could safely use a mobile phone and drive at the same time.

Driver using handheld mobile phone (image licensed CC BY 2.0 by DPP Law on Flickr)

"It is possible that some of the public messaging relating to the dangers of phone use that was so effective in increasing compliance from 2017 onwards needs to be repeated for the benefit of the younger generation," the RAC's report suggests.

Tony Kildare, chief executive, IAM RoadSmart added: "The huge increase in video calls when driving shows once again that if phones have new features then young people, in particular, will use them and legislation will just have to keep playing catch-up."

On the topic of speeding, 57 per cent said they oppose reducing the default urban speed limit to 20mph, as has happened recently in Wales. Just 24 per cent support the policy, a figure that rises to 33 per cent among urban drivers.

Highway Code changes

Unfortunately the report only views last year's Highway Code changes from the viewpoint of pedestrian safety, but does still highlight that 71 per cent say they now give way to pedestrians

However, despite this, only 24 per cent said that when they are on foot they find other drivers willing to let them cross in such situations now covered by the Highway Code.

Highway Code changes (Tier press release)

Just 18 per cent of those asked believed the changes had improved pedestrian safety, while almost a third (31 per cent) actually believe that pedestrians are now less safe as a result.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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64 comments

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wtjs | 4 months ago
2 likes

These surveys are not only tripe, but obvious tripe. There is no increase in cycling in North Lancashire and the percentage of journeys undertaken by bike v. motorised vehicle is so low it's difficult to estimate- certainly much less than 1%. It's rather like 'I'm a cyclist myself' means 'I have been on a bike at least once', these survey responses who know what they're supposed to say. 

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Simon E | 4 months ago
5 likes

I don't know where this 20% of drivers who "have tried to replace vehicle trips with walking or cycling where possible" live but it isn't anywhere near me!

The main roads around and in & out of Shrewsbury are as busy as ever, with congestion and queues worse than I can remember. The infill housebuilding on land inside the bypass doesn't help (along with the almost non-existent cycling infra and shockingly bad bus services). I don't see much evidence of people switching to bikes for routine journeys.

As others have mentioned, the growth of retail parks and the expansion of the industrial estate at the north end of the town have resulted in many workplaces and shops, services & suppliers being located some distances from homes in the town. Like nearby Telford, we also have many commuters travelling significant distances to work (and countless more non-work journeys) from all points of the compass.

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ktache replied to Simon E | 4 months ago
5 likes

I think there may be a lot of heavy lifting being done by the word "tried".

"Contemplated" may have been more apt...

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OldRidgeback | 4 months ago
8 likes

I have two colleagues who live close to our office. One is just 5 miles from it and the other 8 miles from it. I've pointed out several times that if they bought an e-bike, it'd start paying for itself in terms of reduced fuel costs in 6 months or less. They both say they don't want to cycle as they'd be sweaty by the time they arrived and we don't have a shower. I point out that with an e-bike they wouldn't be sweaty. They also say there isn't a good safe route, which I've also shown them to be untrue. But neither of them wants to switch to cycling even so. And that's in spite of both saying they need more exercise and want to lose weight.

This is the problem. I strongly suspect that at least half of those 80% saying they couldn't do without their cars for most trips could in fact use an e-bike for short trips and end up saving money as well as getting fitter. But they won't, because they're A: lazy and B: scared.

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chrisonabike replied to OldRidgeback | 4 months ago
1 like

It's a real big change to start doing that, when we're (as society) apparently going in the opposite direction e.g. less time outdoors or moving.  We are even getting away from what was known as "driving to the shops" because more online ordering / delivery.

I think I read somewhere that in countries where many more people do cycle there is still a bit of a drop off in terms of what is regularly cycled in terms of time.  IIRC it was something like 30 minutes - above that the number of trips falls.  Possibly the 5-miler and probably the 8-miler is getting close to that.  (Yeah - they *could* easily do it in less, with a decent bike / electric assist / following wind...)

"Just won't" is however a factor.  Anyone interested in seeing more (some) active travel and cycling needs to consider this.

On the other hand, there are large numbers of (regular) people in nearby countries cycling trips which in this country would be driven.  Indeed, in some places they would likely be driving those journeys themselves a decade or so ago.

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ktache replied to OldRidgeback | 4 months ago
4 likes

Ask them when was the last time they really enjoyed that driving commute?

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Adam Sutton replied to ktache | 4 months ago
1 like

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type? Did I enjoy riding in the rain getting soaked though to my undercrackers week before last, not so much. Not to mention the cost/reliability of Southeastern trains. But it's needs must, some jobs the commute makes sense by car.

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NOtotheEU replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
7 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type? 

I enjoy commuting by bike (even when the weather is terrible) because it's a journey I have to make so I might as well be doing it in a fun, cheap and responsible way. 

I don't enjoy work when I get there or the dangerous drivers I meet every day but if I caught the bus I'd have to get up an hour earlier and still end up walking all the way sometimes and often be late.

I am a little jealous of drivers when it's below freezing though, so long as they aren't stuck in traffic, broken down or crashed.

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brooksby replied to NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
3 likes
NOtotheEU wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type? 

I enjoy commuting by bike (even when the weather is terrible) because it's a journey I have to make so I might as well be doing it in a fun, cheap and responsible way. 

I don't enjoy work when I get there or the dangerous drivers I meet every day but if I caught the bus I'd have to get up an hour earlier and still end up walking all the way sometimes and often be late.

I am a little jealous of drivers when it's below freezing though, so long as they aren't stuck in traffic, broken down or crashed.

Amen to that, brother! (sister?)

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chrisonabike replied to NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
2 likes
NOtotheEU wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type? 

I enjoy commuting by bike (even when the weather is terrible) because it's a journey I have to make so I might as well be doing it in a fun, cheap and responsible way.

+1

Starting a cycle commute?  Not always - but at the very least I do appreciate having ridden once I've stopped.  Generally after 5-10 minutes I'm at least happy to be peddling, never mind the weather.

Commuting in general?  I'm with Adam on that and if you're driving it's at best only as good as the music / radio.  Outside of cyclign / the exercise if it's every day I end up counting the hours that I couldn't do something else.  When I only went in a couple of days a week?  That's OK, it's a change in routine.

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Adam Sutton replied to NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
0 likes

If the weather good, yeah the commute by bike can be OK. Some of the best commutes were back in 2000 when I worked more local and drove to work in my Delta integrale. I guess it's the prevalent cognitive dissonance that has people denying anyone could enjoy driving. Genuinely looking forward to getting my busso V6 back running.

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NOtotheEU replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
2 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

. . . . drove to work in my Delta integrale

OK, a red HF Evo coming past could momentarily make me wish I had a driving licence, as long as it didn't close pass me.

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Adam Sutton replied to NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
1 like

It was a non-evo 16v, but still an interesting car to own and the one vehicle I regret selling.

As for the commute. Another changeable day for weather so a change of clothes necessary adding to the load. No close passes (I am not saying it never happens) but with the roads wet and flooded in places on the cycle lane, pretty much everyone drving past was moving into the second lane to give plenty of room. Again, I was confronted with another cyslist with no lights, this being at about 5:45AM. I don't know how people cannot comprehend that with this kind of behaviour many see cylists as an issue. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
6 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type?

Absolutely I do, I get to ride my bike, which is one of my greatest pleasures, through some of the beautiful parks and gorgeous architecture of one of the world's greatest and loveliest cities in which I was born and bred, what's not to like? Worst hour of riding beats the best hour of sitting at my desk working!

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NOtotheEU replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
4 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

Worst hour of riding beats the best hour of . . . . working!

If i can steal brooksby's comment to me - Amen to that, brother!

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chrisonabike replied to NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
2 likes

Will depend how you're wired but by cycle commuting to a crap job you may be mentally associating cycling with drudgery or unpleasantness - meaning you may end up avoiding cycling other times. But that's not the fault of the cycling part of course!

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

Absolutely I do, I get to ride my bike, which is one of my greatest pleasures, through some of the beautiful parks and gorgeous architecture of one of the world's greatest and loveliest cities in which I was born and bred, 

If I could afford to live in zone 3, I would consider relocating to our London office. I used to love riding in London for work during Uni holidays.

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stonojnr replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
2 likes

I dont enjoy cycling commuting with the constant driver confrontations it brings, and riding in the rain isnt much fun, plus it creates more hassle with the added maintenance required to keep the bike going.

I get why alot of people still prefer to commute by car.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
1 like

Well between you and Rendel - you're both right. Depends so much on the environment you're riding in.

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/amsterdam-commute-by-bicycle/

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chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 4 months ago
0 likes

Or this one in the snow (clearly he spent all the cash on the trike, not camera stabilisation...)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OP1IWzYF7Dk

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wycombewheeler replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
2 likes
stonojnr wrote:

I dont enjoy cycling commuting with the constant driver confrontations it brings, and riding in the rain isnt much fun, plus it creates more hassle with the added maintenance required to keep the bike going.

I get why alot of people still prefer to commute by car.

when it rains my 3 mile commute takes half an hour in the car, I'd rather get wet.

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stonojnr replied to wycombewheeler | 4 months ago
1 like

Fair enough, but I can't claim to enjoy commuting by bike in the rain, you get wet whatever fancy kit you wear and it adds more work to your ongoing bike maintenance.

My car on the whole doesn't leak, or need a quick service after it's been out in the rain.

So I can understand why people answered this survey the way they did.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
0 likes
stonojnr wrote:

Fair enough, but I can't claim to enjoy commuting by bike in the rain, you get wet whatever fancy kit you wear and it adds more work to your ongoing bike maintenance. My car on the whole doesn't leak, or need a quick service after it's been out in the rain. So I can understand why people answered this survey the way they did.

I think a more sensible either/or is "would you walk to work in the rain" vs. "would you cycle".  The UK answer being "neither - we'd drive", or in bigger places "we'd get the tube / train / bus".

Also - dunno what you ride but if you regularly drove something like a Caterham 7 to work I expect you'd be doing some maintenance.  Horse-replacements for courses.

I bought a Cube Travel Ex for my daily rides because it could be very low maintenance.  (Alloy frame, hydraulic disks, hub gears, belt drive, dynamo lights and mudguards of course - while being a little bit more mobile / less heavy than the full Dutch).  If I had got an Omafiets in theory I would be content to leave it out in all weathers.  Of course - I wouldn't really do that in the UK as it'd get nicked.  (The Cube was nicked even when I didn't leave it out, but locked up and inside.)

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HoldingOn replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
1 like
Adam Sutton wrote:

Does anybody enjoy commuting of any type? Did I enjoy riding in the rain getting soaked though to my undercrackers week before last, not so much. 

ohhh - I missed this thread yesterday!

I freely admit that I am an odd sort, but I love running in the rain. The feeling of isolation. Feeling like I am testing myself against nature.

It is the same when I am cycling - the only difference being, I have to put on my news-head and pretend I am being passed by driverless vehicles, so I keep that feeling of isolation.

I get a sense of accomplishment when I arrive. "You've not won this time nature!!"

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brooksby replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
1 like
Adam Sutton wrote:

Did I enjoy riding in the rain getting soaked though to my undercrackers week before last, not so much.

I did get soaked down to my "undercrackers" (? - that's a new one on me, even though I understand what you mean) last week, I think.  But that was only because a double-decker bus was driven through a four foot wide flood without slowing down or anything...  The wave was higher than me 

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OldRidgeback replied to ktache | 4 months ago
0 likes

IO can't see how anyone would enjoy driving in and around London. I know I don't, which is why I use two wheels (with or without an engine) for preference.

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HoarseMann | 4 months ago
4 likes

I suspect the owner of this house is not one of those 20%...

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chrisonabike replied to HoarseMann | 4 months ago
6 likes

Wrong thread - should be in cars in houses.

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brooksby replied to HoarseMann | 4 months ago
2 likes

I wonder whether they sacrificed lounge space for the car, or garage space for the lounge?

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HoarseMann replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
0 likes

I think lounge space was sacrificed for a garage. It's a semi-detached and next door still has a room in place of this garage.

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