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RAC

Is it sustainable

Certainly car use is sustainable, given sensible planning of road systems, ongoing car design and driver training. I really could not live without my car. Public transport is inflexible, time consuming and no use at all in rural areas. Secondly, our use of out of town supermarkets plus the sheer weight of a shopping load makes a car essential.

John, motorist from Nottinghamshire

We think we are now more dependent on our cars, and more car focused than in 1988.

But do we think this is sustainable?

Our increased dependence on cars

Today, society and the lives we lead are increasingly organised around the assumption of having access to a car. So much so, 9% of motorists say they never walk.

Nine out of 10 motorists think Britain has become more car-dependent in the last 20 years. Half of us say it's because we're making more journeys, and a third that we're using our cars more for shorter journeys. This is borne out by the facts.

There are many reasons for our increased dependence on cars. Some reflect their greater accessibility and affordability. Some reflect an actual, or perceived, lack of realistic alternatives. And some reflect broader changes in our society.

Take walking as an example. Between the late 1990's and 2006, the average number of journeys made on foot fell by a quarter - from 328 to 249 per year. (There has been a similar decline in cycling, which also fell by a quarter across the same period, from 21 to 16 journeys per year.)

In 2008, 9% of motorists say they never walk. The car may be what people use instead, but the fundamental point is that we're losing the habit of walking. This is the real area for concern - not least because of the implications for our personal well-being and health.

Ask why we're stopping walking and we get into even deeper social changes. Today, fewer children now walk (or cycle) to school, largely as a result of more general fears about their safety, compared with 20 years ago. And, reflecting the health point above, there are now well-known concerns about the rise in obesity amongst children as a result of this.

The growth in out-of-town supermarkets over the last two decades means we now do bigger, less frequent shopping trips further away ... which, in turn, means that it's doubly impractical for us to walk, for instance, distance times volume of shopping.

Effectively, we now need a car to go to the supermarket.

50 years ago it was much easier to live without a car since most of what we needed was within walking distance or easily-reached by public transport.

Now, it's not so easy. Society and the lives we lead are increasingly organised around the car. And that is recognised, pretty much.

A changing picture?

Twenty years of improvements