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Transport / Mass transit

These maps show which English cities are least reliant on cars

People who live in inner centres are weird. That’s not me being rude (I mean, I live in inner London myself). It’s a statistical fact. In England and Wales as a whole, most households own cars. Most inner city households don’t.

In England as a whole, according to Department for Transport figures for 2013-14, just 25 per cent of households don’t own cars. In major cities, though, that number is 34 per cent. In London it’s 43 per cent. 

There might be all sorts of explanations for this. Residents of many inner cities are more likely to be poorer, for one thing; they’re less likely to have access to parking, for another.

But the big one has got to be need. If you’re living in a field somewhere in rural Shropshire, you basically aren’t going anywhere without wheels. (Those same figures show that just 6 per cent of households categorised as rural didn’t have cars.) If you live in the city centre, though, you can probably walk from your flat to your job to the pub where you’re meeting your mates.

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And even if you can’t, you’re more likely to have access to public transport.  Look:

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This map shows the percentage of households without cars in the West Midlands, using data from the 2011 census. It’s the work of data analyst and occasional CityMetric writer Tom Forth.

You can see at a glance that, in the conurbation’s various inner cities – Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton – more than half of households don’t have cars. In the inner suburbs, those figures drop to about a third; in the outer suburbs, it’s a fifth. By the time you’re in the country, the figures are pretty much negligible.

There’s a similar pattern in the West Yorkshire conurbation….

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…and up in Tyne & Wear:

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Which is odd, because that conurbation has a rather fine Metro network.

In Liverpool, the low car area seems to be bigger – though whether that reflects the reach of Merseyrail, or something else, we’re not sure.

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The same is true of Manchester, with its ever expanding tram network:

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And as for London, the low car zone is unsurprisingly huge:

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It seems to extend further into north London than it does into south. The obvious explanation for this is that tube coverage is a lot stronger in the north than the south – though that wouldn’t explain the low car ownership rates in tube-free Hackney.

Zoom out, and you can see how London’s various commuter satellites are relatively low-car islands in a sea of red:

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It tends to be larger cities that have low car ownership rates, of course. By way of comparison, here’s what Milton Keynes and nearby Bedford look like.

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Not a green ward in sight.

You can play with the map – and click on individual wards, to get the data – here.

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