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"Entrenched car culture": Brits spending up to 19% of income on cars is stifling active travel, claims cycling campaign group

Despite Bike Is Best's report showing the eye-watering figures people will pay to keep their cars on the road, 48% of respondents said they could not afford a bike...

A study by cycling campaign group Bike Is Best suggests that millions of people in Britain are trapped in transport poverty and are spending concerning proportions of their income to enable them to drive a car, with bicycles and increased investment in cycling infrastructure touted as a solution.

The report is based on nationally representative survey of 2,000 people and found that on average those who own a car are spending 13 per cent of their pre-tax income on the associated costs of driving (fuel, insurance, Vehicle Excise Duty, MOT, maintenance etc.).

It is a figure that rises to 19 per cent if the individual is paying for their vehicle with a finance or loan deal, and raised concerns with Bike Is Best that millions of Britons are trapped in transport poverty, the threshold for which is spending 10 per cent of pre-tax income.

Moreover, the report showed that around three-quarters of drivers think they will always own a car, while 47 per cent do not believe they have an alternative, prompting Bike Is Best and Cycling UK to call for more investment in safe and easily accessible cycling infrastructure to offer people that alternative.

Scott Purchas from Bike Is Best went as far to suggest the UK has an "entrenched car culture" that is "locking people in to spending significant portions of their income on transport".

"As the UK endures the cost of living crisis, there's no escaping the fact that our entrenched car culture is locking people in to spending significant portions of their income on transport," he said.

"UK motorists with some form of car finance spend 19 per cent of their total annual gross income on their car. New investment in [cycling] infrastructure will give people genuine choice about how they travel, which is incredibly important at this difficult time.

"Modes of transport that are efficient, sustainable and don't break the bank should win out – not least because half the population see the bike or e-bike as an alternative to the car or public transport."

Keir Gallagher of Cycling UK added: "The solution is simple – building networks of safe, segregated cycle routes in towns and cities across the UK would turn cycling into a genuine option for millions of people, helping them break out of car dependence and the huge costs associated with that."

The study also found that 34 per cent of motorists would cycle if they could choose something other than driving or public transport, but almost half said they could not afford to buy a bike.

Last year, a survey from Cycleplan found that one in three cyclists still feel unsafe on British roads despite Highway Code changes, suggesting that safety of routes and a lack of infrastructure segregating riders from traffic is still a primary concern of those who otherwise might cycle.

One in three of Cycleplan's survey respondents – 33 per cent – said that they had been involved in a collision or near miss within the past 12 months, and 79 per cent said that they believed that drivers were not observing the Highway Code changes.

A second survey published just months earlier found that seven in 10 respondents backed moves to encourage cycling and walking and reduce the use of motor vehicles – but an identical percentage, 71 per cent, also claimed that their current lifestyle means they need a car.

> Seven in 10 back moves to encourage cycling and walking

It also found that 44 per cent of respondents said that they would like to cycle more than they currently do – but at the same time, 47 per cent agreed with the statement, 'I'm not the kind of person who rides a bicycle'.

Dan joined 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, 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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