Weekly Poll – Reducing Car Travel

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 14 February 2022, we asked a question about Reducing Car Travel.

Results

Question 1. Do you think the four key areas set out in the route map will help to achieve a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030?

  • Yes – 8% (31 respondents)
  • No – 92% (365 respondents)

Question 2. What would make it possible for you to reduce car travel?

  • More accessible public transport – 63% (252 respondents)
  • More accessible environment for walking/wheeling – 53% (211 respondents)
  • More accessible services and amenities closer to home – 48% (191 respondents)
  • More accessible digital services – 29% (117 respondents)
  • Nothing, I could not reduce my car travel – 28% (114 respondents)
  • More accessible cycling routes – 9% (37 respondents)
  • Other (please specify) 4% (17 respondents)

Of the 17 respondents who answered ‘other’:

  • 6 stated that alternatives to car travel must be more affordable,
  • 5 would reduce car use if cycling and public transport was safer,
  • 5 believed that public transport should be more frequent and reliable,
  • 1 suggested that car sharing would reduce car ownership.

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

A Route Map to Achieve a 20 per cent Reduction in Car Kilometres by 2030

In January 2022, Transport Scotland published a draft route map to achieve a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030. The route map features four key behaviours that Transport Scotland want everyone in Scotland to consider when planning journeys:

  • make use of online options to reduce your need to travel;
  • choose local destinations to reduce the distance you travel;
  • switch to walking, wheeling, cycling or public transport where possible; and
  • combine a trip or share a journey to reduce the number of individual car trips you make, if car remains the only feasible option.

The vast majority of respondents (92% – 365 respondents), believed that the four behaviours will not help to achieve a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030. Respondents raised concerns about the impact of the strategy on disabled people. In addition, respondents questioned the level of engagement that had been undertaken with disabled people and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) when forming the strategy.

“This document is framed from the medical model of disability so I’m guessing that to date there has been no involvement with disabled people or disabled people’s organisations? When will the government even stand true to nothing about us without us!”

“The route map appears to have been developed without engaging with disabled people. Why not?”

“A lot of the solutions seem to be forcing people away from using cars by making things more difficult rather than making the alternatives more attractive. If you are disabled, you are often forced into using cars and the approaches outlined could just place extra costs on disabled people who are already more likely to be in poverty.”

“The route map is ableist. Using online, staying local, using public transport are all things which a lot of disabled people have had to do for years due to the limitations of our bodies. I’m not going to have a miracle cure. I expect society to understand and provide for my needs to use taxis in my senior years as my condition worsens.”

Public Transport

Disabled people reflected on the factors that would make it possible to reduce car travel. Almost two thirds of respondents (63% – 252 respondents) selected ‘more accessible public transport’ as the most significant factor. For public transport to be a viable alternative to using a car, disabled people believed that it needs to be more affordable, reliable and accessible.

Affordability

Disabled people commented on the affordability of public transport, with specific reference to train fares being too expensive. One respondent had concerns that rising fuel costs will result in an increase to taxi fares.

“Lack of good, reliable, reasonably priced bus services has increased car usage.”

“Public transport needs to be affordable. Train fares are far too high which means people can’t use rail as an option due to costs.”

“We need cheaper train fares for disabled people. Despite having a disabled persons railcard which gives me a 34% discount, I still find train fares unaffordable.”

“Public transport is too expensive and an absolute joke. Being disabled, I can take my car, plan my route and stops that suit me!”

“I am in a wheelchair, and I cannot comment on personal car travel but as a user of taxis I am anxious about rising fares due inevitably to the rise in petrol costs.”

Frequency of Services

To help reduce car use, disabled people believed that public transport services need to be more frequent and reliable. Respondents reported of bus services being delayed and, on some routes, it is not possible to travel in the evenings and at weekends.

“Personally, I couldn’t reduce car travel due to where I live because bus services in my local area have reduced their services on certain routes.”

“We need better bus services. In my village we have no evening buses and no buses at all on Sundays.”

“Make public transport more reliable, as it’s not reliable in Dundee. Lots of buses run late and more often than late is the service doesn’t run at all. This is every day and impossible to plan appointments.”

“I live in a small village and there’s no reliable bus service.”

“The journey times by public transport need to be the same or quicker than car.”

“The buses are inaccessible, infrequent and unreliable. If we need a car for one journey a week because there are no buses home, we might as well use it all the time.”

Accessibility and Passenger Assistance

Respondents commented on the continuing need to improve the accessibility of public transport for disabled people. This extends to ensuring that staff are appropriately trained to provide passenger assistance.

“We need to get public transport basics right and at present, it is inaccessible.”

“I don’t think those who produced the route map truly understand how difficult it is for disabled people to access public transport. We need to get public transport improved before we can even start the journey of the route map.”

“Being disabled, access to public transport is difficult especially in rural regions without accessible transport and more importantly, staff trained to deal with disabled people.”

“A lot of bus stops in rural areas are not suitable for disabled people to board and alight, especially for people with hidden disabilities that drivers can miss. Until staff are given the training and time to help disabled passengers, then I will not be able to use them.”

“We need better bus stops and shelters, including emergency buttons at the bust stops to get help regarding abuse and hate crime. Bus stop and shelters also need to be well-lit and have good lines of sight to make people, especially disabled people and females, feel safe.”

“We need more accessible toilets if using public transport more as journeys take longer and it’s not as easy to deviate from the route to find an accessible public toilet.”

“The time it takes someone to get to the nearest mode of public transport, the number of onward connections to make, combined with the overall journey time can have a big impact on the accessibility of transport.”

Accessible Environments

Over half of respondents (53% – 211 respondents) selected ‘more accessible environments’ as the second most significant factor for helping disabled people to reduce car use.

Pavement Infrastructure

Disabled people raised concerns about poorly designed and maintained street infrastructure, including narrow pavements, uneven surfaces and a lack of dropped kerbs. This can create barriers for disabled people when accessing local services and modes of public transport.

“As a blind person I would travel less as a passenger by car if pedestrian crossings in Glasgow had tactile paving and revolving cones as many don’t.”

“I can’t get to my bus stop because of the state of the pavements and lack of dropped kerbs. Until that’s fixed public transport is a no for me.”

“It is a 400-metre walk to my nearest bus stop, which is too far for me to walk, and the pavements are too narrow, crowded, and uneven for me to get to the bus stop in a wheelchair. I am not the only disabled person who struggles to get to bus stops because of distance and poor accessibility of pavements. Any attempt to reduce car use by disabled people will need to address these issues.”

“How can we have confidence in this when we see a botch up of Spaces for People and the Avenues project at Sauchiehall Street?”

Accessible Services and Amenities

Almost half of respondents (47% – 191 respondents), selected having more accessible services and amenities closer to home as a factor that would help to reduce car use.

“There’s only one shop in my village which is far too expensive and does not have the choice, therefore I have to rely on my disabled car which I also use for taking other pensioners shopping.”

“In theory, things being closer to home would help reduce car travel but in practice large supermarkets control the retail environment and they do not find it profitable to have smaller units locally for the benefit of shoppers. They are, at the end of the day, profit driven.”

“The route map needs to address the need for better walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure to enable everyone in our communities to have equal access to their places. We need to create higher density neighbourhoods to provide the critical mass of people to support local services and amenities.”

“It’s a quarter mile walk to the bus stop, and I am walking impaired and walk with 2 sticks. It’s 5 miles to the nearest shop or doctors’ surgery. The hospital is 2 bus journeys. It’s impossible.”

20-minute neighbourhoods

A portion of respondents reflected on the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods, which means having all your basic needs – shops, health centres, work opportunities, and recreation – within a mile of where you live and close enough to walk or wheel.

“I really hope the government can deliver on the 20 minute neighbourhood concept as this would help reduce the need to travel and hence car kilometres.”

“This strategy and the 20 minute neighbourhood plans need to be progressed as a priority.”

Unable to reduce car travel

Over one quarter of respondents (28% – 114 respondents), stated that they could not reduce car travel. A car can be a vital mobility aid which gives disabled people the freedom to access services and amenities without the barriers experienced when using public transport.

“I would Struggle to reduce car use due to energy levels and not being able to walk far. My car is a big accessibility tool especially living rurally where my nearest shop is 8 miles away with no public transport.”

“For disabled people I just don’t think this applies. Life is difficult enough for us. Those that have cars shouldn’t have added stress of not using it. Its socially isolating enough being disabled. Just managing to get out the door is a major feat for many of us.”

“Due to physical disability and mental health problems, I cannot reduce my car travel. I would like to point out that I only use it when necessary, such as medical appointments and grocery shopping. I feel that the Scottish government are on a mission to make it as difficult as possible to use a car, but the only way they are doing this is by imposing financial constraints. This will mean that it will be the poorest, most vulnerable people who are disabled and on benefits who will have to give up their car, while everyone else will carry on using cars.”

“I honestly have no desire to reduce my reliance on my car to travel and frankly, I don’t see why I should. Cars have been and will remain the most convenient mode until you can arrange for me to step into a pod and be teleported across the world to a location of my choice at a moment’s notice. Then, and only then will I give up my car.”

“I need my car as my mobility aid and my worry is that I won’t get access to where I need to go, and more Blue Badge spaces will be removed to make room for cycle lanes. Take away some of the road lanes/space and not parking places for those of us who need our car for our mobility.”

Access to Digital Services

Nearly one third of respondents (29% – 117 respondents) selected more accessible digital services as a factor that will help to reduce car travel. Respondents reflected on the increase of digital connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed more people to shop online, take part in online events, access education and work from home.

“I do the majority of my non-food shopping online now, which certainly wasn’t the case five years ago. This has made a big difference to my need to travel.”

“Continuing with working from home and digital meetings will have the biggest impact on reducing car miles. This behaviour change needs to be the norm.”

“I think the most significant action that will reduce car use and kilometres by car is to retain the option of working from home and keeping meetings and conferences online. It also helps those who normally use a substantial proportion of their budget in travel or public travel.”

“Having text-based directions available online alongside maps for journey planning would help me try to reach a destination by walking rather than having to take taxis.”

“From the first lockdown I have been able to access my university classes digitally. I asked for this before lockdown and it could not be done even as a reasonable adjustment request, but it has been done now because of lockdown. Hopefully this won’t stop. As a disabled person digital lectures and classes have allowed me to get more involved and learn more and stopping digital participation would interrupt and probably stop my learning and gaining qualifications to help me find employment.”

Digital Exclusion

However, there was recognition of people who are digitally excluded, due to factors such as a lack of digital skills or confidence to get online. There may also be financial barriers, such as the cost of broadband and devices. Depending on location, some people may have a weaker mobile and broadband signal, which restricts access to digital services.

“This route map seems to want to confine people to their homes and isolate even further. Not everyone has access to the internet, therefore trying to put more services online is not suitable for everyone.”

“I can’t afford to keep paying my broadband bills with the cost of living going up. We need extra support in place to keep people connected, it was essential during the pandemic, and in this case could help to reduce journeys and car usage.”

Cycling

More accessible cycling routes was the factor selected by the least number respondents for helping reducing car travel (9% – 37 respondents). Disabled people reflected on the safety of existing cycle lanes and suggested that improvements are needed, including better lighting and safer segregation with footways.

“More accessible but safer cycling routes, with appropriate safe paths and good lighting. Happy to ride to work in the morning, but in the evening, it can be a problem due to darkness. Also, more strong anti-theft bike stands / shelters around the city of Glasgow. Avoiding leaving my bike in case it gets stolen.”

“Safe segregated cycling infrastructure and better footways. Priority for pedestrians over vehicles at crossings.”

“Encourage all new shops to have less car parking spaces but more cycle racks and secure parking for ebikes. I would take ebike shopping but frightened that it will be stolen.”

“For me there is not enough ‘concrete’ plans to build better cycling infrastructure, particularly in cities. Let’s get moving on this immediately.”

“There is confusion between motorists and cyclists with pedestrians like myself, conscious of safety. Therefore, with the ‘messy’ and unthought our installation of cycle lanes, I will remain in my car until safety concerns are addressed with little thought out cycle lanes.”

“The roads aren’t safe to cycle on for me and my family. If the infrastructure was completely changed, we’d travel by bike much more.”

Conclusion

The majority of respondents (92% – 365 respondents) believed that the Transport Scotland strategy to achieve a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030 is not achievable. When reflecting on what would help to reduce car travel, the most significant factor selected was making public transport more accessible. Disabled people commented on the lack of affordable and reliable transport services.  More accessible environments was selected as the second most significant factor to help reduce car use, with respondents highlighting concerns about poorly designed and maintained street infrastructure. It was also recognised that car use could be reduced if services and amenities were located closer to home, which closely links to the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods. Safer cycling infrastructure may encourage some respondents to substitute their cars for bikes. A portion of respondents stated that their car is a vital accessibility aid and alternatives do not offer the same level of freedom and independence. It was noted that digital connectivity can reduce the need to travel, however, this is not a viable option for people who are digitally excluded.