Ability to travel
Graphs on this page:
- People in households without a car make half the number of journeys as those with a car and this has been the case throughout the last decade.
- The proportion of households who find it difficult to access essential local services is much higher for those without cars than for those with cars. For example, around 5-8% of those with cars report difficulties accessing supermarkets, post offices and doctors compared with 18-20% for those without a car. Access to hospitals is much more difficult for both groups, with 20% of those with a car and 40% of those without a car reporting difficulties.
- Nearly all households with above-average incomes have a car but half of low-income households do not.
- The overall pattern of car ownership by income level in 2010 was similar to that of a decade previously, although the proportion of those with below-average incomes who do not have a car has reduced somewhat.
- Access to a car is affected by household type as well as household income. Nearly all couples have a car but many singles – both with and without children – do not. So whereas only 10% of working-age couples and 20% of pensioner couples lack a car, 40% of working-age singles (both with and without dependent children) and 65% of single pensioners lack a car.
- In 2010, 22% of women and 17% of men lived in households that did not have car. Thirty five years ago, both these proportions were about twice as high. While the gap between men and women in terms household car ownership is only 5 percentage points, the gap in terms of who can drive the car is much larger, with 25% of men but 40% of women either lacking a car in their household or not having a driving license. These proportions, too, have both halved over the last thirty years.
Why this indicator was originally chosen
Access is in many ways the opposite of social exclusion, and the ability to travel is a crucial aspect of access. Travel involves journeys for work and pleasure, for shopping, for family visits, religious occasions, going to the doctor, and generally for participation in communal activities outside home. “It is not only a lack of money that may make a person poor, but the lack of access to opportunities and facilities that others in the same society enjoy that is the defining characteristic of travel poverty“. 1
In contemporary Britain, most people use cars to travel and those without cars make many fewer journeys than those with cars. Arguably, cars have now become an essential item (except for those living in some of the major metropolitan areas).
Definitions and data sources
The first graph shows the average number of journeys made by people each year, with the data split between those in households with and without cars.
The data source for the first graph is the National Travel Survey and the data relates to Great Britain. The number of journeys has been calculated as the total number of trips by all methods less the number of walking trips. No data is available for 2007. Up until 2001, The National Travel Survey results were published on a three-year rolling basis. Following advice from the Department for Transport, the individual year estimates have been made by applying the three-year averages to the middle year of the three (e.g. the figures for 2000 are those for the three-year period from 1999 to 2001). Figures for 2001 cannot be estimated on this basis so the figures shown are the average for the years 2000 and 2002.
The second graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of households who say that they find it difficult to access a selection of essential local services, with the data shown separately for households with and without cars.
The data source for the second graph is the the household dataset from the English Housing Survey and the data is for England only. Note that these questions were not asked in the 2008/09 survey.
The third graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of households who do not have access to a car, with the data shown separately for each level of household income. Note that the households incomes have been adjusted for household size and composition to put them on a comparable basis (i.e. they are equivalised). For comparison purposes, the equivalent data for a decade ago is also presented,
The fourth graph shows, for 2005, the proportion of households who do not have access to a car, with the data shown separately for each major type of household. Note that this breakdown is not available for any of the surveys since 2005.
The fifth graph shows, by gender, the proportion of adults who do not have access to a car, with the data divided between households without a car and adults who do have a car in their household but do not themselves have a full driving license.
The data source for third, fourth and fifth graphs is the National Travel Survey and the data relates to Great Britain. In the fourth graph, households are classified as working-age or pensioner depending on whether the household reference person is aged 65+ or not.
Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited. The National Travel Survey and English Housing Survey are both well-established annual government surveys, designed to be nationally representative, but it is not at all clear that the data fully captures the problems of transport in relation to poverty and social exclusion, particularly given the absence of any good data on the adequacy of public transport as an alternative to car ownership.
- See the Department of Transport’s annual National Travel Survey reports.
- See the 2002 report for the Department of Transport entitled The public transport gender audit.
- For a discussion of the importance of public transport to those with low incomes, see the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2007 report entitled Everyone matters? Voices of people experiencing poverty in Scotland.
- See the Commission for Rural Communities 2007 State of the countryside report.
- See the DEFRA site on rural development.
Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements
None directly relevant.
|Year||Average number of trips per person excluding walking trips|
|People in households without a car||People in households with a car|
|2007||no data||no data|
|Service||Households with a car||Households without a car|
|Household income quintile||1999-2001||2010|
|2+ adults with children||11%|
|2 adults, household reference person 16-64||12%|
|2 adults, household reference person 65+||20%|
|Single adult 16-64||41%|
|Lone parent family||44%|
|Single adult 65+||66%|
|Year||No car in household||Car in household but non-driver|