Last updated: July 2015
Choosing to give up owning a car, or not buying a second car, might be a daunting prospect for some, but improved services combined with smart technology has opened up a suite of travel alternatives.
The AA estimates that just owning a car in the UK costs between £2,000 and £9,500 per year, when capital cost, depreciation, road tax, insurance and breakdown cover are included.  In addition, to drive that car 10,000 miles per year costs between £1,700–£2,700 for petrol, tyres, servicing, parts, parking and tolls. 
Even at the lower end of these figures, £3,700 per year represents a significant part of household expenditure, second only to mortgage or rent.
Once a car budget is freed up, we can choose how to reallocate that money to the travel options available that suit us best.
Everybody’s travel needs differ, and the options vary, so each transport mix will be unique. Three hypothetical travel scenarios are featured below.
Travel options – price assumptions
- Taxi: approx costs for 1-4 mile journey
- Bicycle: £300 will buy a new urban-hybrid / commuter bike, £200 will buy a mid-range helmet, lock, lights, panniers, cycle jacket and shorts
- Bus: approximate cost for short journey
- Inter-City Train: will vary greatly with distance, ticket type & time
- Car Sharing: 50% of small car mileage costs as featured on liftshare.com
- Tram: Example used of Metrolink (Greater Manchester) off-peak day travel card
- Inter-city Coach: varies with distance, ticket type & time
- Car Club: Example used of City Car Club standard rate for small car
- Electric Bike: New electric bikes start at around £800-£1,000
- Smartphone: Example used of Fairphone 2yr contract at Phone Co-op
Let us know if travel mixing stacks-up for you at: firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Forums.
A travel centre in your pocket
The internet, smartphones, real-time travel information, slick new car clubs, and multi-geared commuter bikes (or electric bikes) are changing the options for the urban traveller.
Smartphones, for example, have GPS (Global Positioning System) technology which enables travellers to see their location on a map in real time. This can take the stress out of knowing when to get off a bus, or how long a journey will take on foot. Other smartphone ‘apps’ can be downloaded to provide bus and train times, purchase travel tickets, or book a car club vehicle or hire car.
Web-based maps (Google, Bling ,etc.) feature route suggestions between destinations for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and public transport users. Journey planning tools can be accessed online.
For new cycles try bike co-ops or local bike shops; best deals can often be found in September. For cheaper second-hand cycles check out bike refurbishment charities, local bike shops, or online at Gumtree. If you’re lucky you can pick up a free bike on Freegle. Impartial advice.
For guidance on buying an electric bike visit www.pedelecs.co.uk, a community forum with over 9,000 members.
Over the last 10-15 years there have been a number of publicly-funded programmes to encourage alternative modes of transport to the car, aimed at reducing congestion, air pollution, noise, and CO2 emissions.
The term ‘travel blending’ first arose in the late 1990s in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics, in a bid to improve local air quality. In the UK the TravelWise brand has been used by Passenger Transport Executives to promote public transport, and walking and cycling to a lesser extent.
The Department of Transport’s Sustainable Travel Town pilots (2004-09), which exemplified the ‘Smarter Choices’ approach, included new investment in personalised travel planning advice, workplace & school travel plans and travel marketing. 
A joined up approach
For example, Worcester’s ‘Choose how you move’ initiative showed how a joined-up approach to investment, promotion and support for alternatives to the car can yield tangible results. Their one-stop-shop for all travel choices helped local people address the old issue of having to make multiple enquires to obtain bus, train, cycle and walking information. After only 4 years ‘Choose how you move’ delivered:
- Reduction of 7% in car as driver trips per person per year
- Reduction of 4% in car as passenger trips
- Increase of 11% in walking trips
- Increase of 19% in bicycle trips
- Increase of 20% in bus trips
- Estimated saving of around 3,900 tonnes of CO2 per year from personal car use
The ‘Smarter Choices’ programmes showed promising results with reduced car mileage, increased use of car alternatives, and increased physical activity. However successive UK governments have failed to align transport, environment, energy and health budgets to deliver a supported infrastructure that provides consumers with genuine travel alternatives.
As with many other areas, Greater Manchester recognises the value of the ‘Smarter Choices’ approach and ‘intends’ to adopt it, “but the scale of our ambitions is not currently matched by the funding available and the rate at which we can progress will depend on gaining access to additional funding, particularly revenue funding for ongoing promotional activity.”
In March 2015 the UK government committed £15 billion to a five-year road building and improvements programme5 citing the quality of a nation’s infrastructure as “one of the foundations of its rate of growth and the living standards of its people”. Over the same period cycling investment will total just £214 million.6 While the annual Sustainable Local Transport Fund supplies additional funding of a comparatively measly £64 million for 2015/16. 
Cities lead the way?
Whilst the UK national government continues to struggle with chronic policy disconnect, local structures offer more hope. June 2015 sees Bristol, the UK’s first ‘Cycling City’, hosting the Active Cities Summit8 to highlight the ‘local competitive economic advantages of cities that encourage physically active lifestyles’.
The summit will present ‘high-quality evidence-based research’ from around the world, undertaken by Active Living Research, and focus on shaping new UK policy recommendations. Whilst still couched in terms of cities gaining ‘competitive economic advantage’ it offers the hope of injecting some joined-up thinking to deliver more people-friendly living places.
Consumers lead the way?
Membership of formal car clubs in the UK has grown from near zero in the late 90s to 188,000 today.  The UK Cyclists Touring Club cites Department of Transport evidence that the number of miles cycled in 2013 was around 11.5% higher than the 2005-09 average, while the National Travel Survey, suggests growth over this period is nearer to 20%.
Consumer choice of this nature has been attributed to a combination of factors such as;
- reduced disposable household income;
- the ‘Bradley Wiggins effect’and the success of Team GB on the track; 
- and also some changes in national and local policy.
All these factors are likely to have played a part. Such trends suggest that consumer demand for more improved travel options is on the rise.