Pedals not petrol: how local authorities can reduce car use

Transport has been a stubborn sector for cutting climate-wrecking emissions for years now, so 2021 needs to be the year that changes
  Published:  18 Jan 2021    |      2 minute read

One of the key challenges to cut transport emissions and fix the climate crisis (as well as improving air quality) is how to get more people out of their cars. Rapid reductions in car mileage are needed if the UK is to do its fair share in cutting global carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth has worked with Transport for Quality of Life to put together a list of 27 actions local authorities can take to reduce car use. These include setting up networks of remote working hubs, making temporary active travel infrastructure permanent, and making e-bikes free or cheap for key workers.

Friends of the Earth is calling for local authorities across the country to, on average, double the proportion of journeys by public transport, cycling and walking. While a lot of these changes come within their remit, it’s crucial that central government steps up and gives more support and funding for local authorities to act on the climate crisis.

The top actions local authorities can take to lower climate damage caused by transport:

  1. Establish a network of remote working hubs
  2. Make emergency active travel infrastructure permanent
  3. Free/cheap e-bikes for key workers and jobseekers
  4. Lower speed limits
  5. Cancel local spending on road building and redirect to public transport and active travel
  6. Re-regulate and improve bus services (Metro areas)
  7. Amend local plans and develop only where excellent public transport is included
  8. Set a carbon budget for transport and traffic reduction targets
  9. Stop subsidising or encouraging free parking
  10. Stop cutting bus services

Further actions include initiating a town trial of free public transport and introducing guaranteed service frequency standards for public transport in rural areas.

Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said:

“The way we get around has a big impact on the planet. Transport has been a stubborn sector for cutting climate-wrecking emissions for years now, so 2021 needs to be the year that changes. Local authorities have a massive role to play in supporting their residents to move from cars to bikes and buses.

“A lot of these changes are within their power to make and places such as Hackney and Nottingham are already doing amazing work on transport. But this doesn’t mean central government can just sit back and relax. Local authorities are underfunded and under supported, with years of austerity taking its toll. Westminster must give proper funding and support so local areas can act on the climate crisis.”

Dr Ian Taylor, Director, Transport for Quality of Life, said:

“This paper sets out a complete package for transport policy that is entirely feasible, based on existing world best practice, yet also on a scale and depth that matches up to the severity and urgency of the Climate Emergency. It is also a package that will enable us to ‘build back better’ and revive our economy after Covid. We hope this briefing will empower all those who care about the Climate Emergency and are in a position to take action in their locality – whether as Friends of the Earth activists, local councillors, or local government officers."

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  1. Read the summary blog “Climate emergency - how do local authorities get people out of their cars?” here
  2. Read the full report “Making transport fit for the Climate Emergency” by Friends of the Earth and Transport for Quality of Life here
  3. This report follows the December launch by the Blueprint Coalition of a plan for how the government can best support local action on the climate crisis