Analysis and research

Without a car: Who relies on active travel?

Are you enhancing inequality in Greater Manchester by taking planning priority away from those with cars? Is a modal shift unequal? Let’s take a look at the data.

The primary aim of low traffic/active neighbourhoods is to encourage people to change the mode by which they make short journeys. By reducing rat running and improving infrastructure, walking and cycling around the local area is made much easier. As a result, people who usually jump in the car to go to grocery shopping, to take their children to school, or to do whatever else they need, may choose to use an alternative method instead.

But whilst this mode change is one reason to bring in a low traffic neighbourhood, there is another group who this will benefit. Those who are already undertaking “active travel” journeys every day, those households who have no car.

These people who have been travelling by foot, bike or mobility aid before any of this new infrastructure. Who are they, in Greater Manchester, and in our local area? Most importantly, what could be done to make their lives easier?

The carless: Who and how many?

Percentage of households owning at least one car.
Source: Tom Forth’s Ward Explorer: Based on 2011 census data

As can be seen, Levenshulme and Burnage both have a fairly average level of car ownership, compared to the rest of GM, with Burnage’s skewing slightly higher.

So who are the carless? Well, the Bike Life 2019 survey by Sustrans collected recent data on this group.

Taken from Sustrans Bike Life survey 2019 (both cyclists and non-cyclists) – 850,000 is from 2011 census and has likely increased.

This data suggests that improving active travel infrastructure and prioritising non-car travel would be catering to many within the lowest socio-economic groups, as defined by based on occupation maintained by the Market Research Society. Data from the DfT also demonstrates that car ownership is correlated with income, with poorer households having lower access to cars.

30% of this group have also expressed an interest in starting cycling. When asked why they don’t cycle or cycle less often, they stated safety concerns (35%), lack of confidence (25%) or a feeling that cycling is “not for people like me” (20%). The last one is upsetting, considering this is exactly who cycling could help. Not having a car can increase the risk of social exclusion, dept and transport poverty, but this shouldn’t be the case. Cycling over a longer distance, to a place of work and outside of the neighbourhood, will be discussed at another time, due to this being a different issue to that of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

So we know a little bit about people without cars, and who within the carless could have the most to gain from an LTN, but what can we work out about our own local area?

The carless: Levenshulme & Burnage

The spread of carless households across the area of the previously proposed Levenshulme Bee Network scheme appears to be split. The region of Burnage in the proposed LTN in particular has fewer carless households, whilst the East side of Levenshulme (particularly near Longsight) has more carless households. These areas will stand to benefit from an LTN even with no change in behaviour.

More yellow = More carless households.
Data from 2011 Census (Most recent car/household data)

The census data is of course from 2011, so what could we do to get a more recent estimate of car numbers in M19?

To go back up to a bigger scale, the MEN reported in 2017 that Manchester still had fewer cars per head than any city other than London, with 0.27 cars per head, compared to Birmingham’s 0.53 and Leeds’ 0.44.

This is all we can work out about our car situation, hopefully the next data we can analyse will be from the trial of the LTN itself.

The ‘carless’ and the ‘car less’

Coming back to the LTN and modal shift, by prioritising active travel over cars, we can make life easier for people who have no choice but to walk or cycle. In the same way that by choosing not to drive, we clear space for those who have no option but to use the road. Even if we still own cars, we can “car less”, and in so, care more for our fellow neighbours who rely on active travel.

Across England, 25% of all car journeys are under two miles. In Greater Manchester, this is even higher. 30% of trips under 1km are made by car. That is on average a 15 minute walk or 4 minute cycle ride.

Taken from the made to move report pg. 17

If everybody who is able chose to walk rather than drive for even just the shortest of these trips, there would be far fewer cars travelling down residential roads. The changes needed to achieve this modal shift in residential areas may seem drastic, but the health benefits would be significant. Within the low traffic neighbourhood, the resulting reduction in car journeys would lead to a reduction in noise and air pollution, and there are huge health benefits to everyone who makes use of the opportunity for a more physically active way to travel – even for those living on roads outside of the previously proposed scheme area. Indeed, air pollution and inactivity are two major threats to our health, with an estimated combined cost to the NHS of in excess of £1bn. In Greater Manchester, 10 people every day die early from air pollution.

For some, these benefits will be paid for in a reduction in convenience as some car journeys become slightly longer. For others who do not own a car at all, their day-to-day lives will be greatly facilitated.

People belonging to these carless households are already reliant on walking, cycling and public transport to go about their lives. Those using public transport still need to get themselves to the train station or bus stop without a car. It’s entirely understandable that people who rely on their cars may have concerns that certain things may become more difficult under a low traffic neighbourhood scheme – and any concerns should be addressed as best as possible. As a community, however, we have a responsibility to enable those who do not have access to a car to carry out their lives with ease and in safety. We can only do this by actively prioritising our roads to pedestrians and cyclists, and this invariably requires making cars less of a priority.


If you want to show your support for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Burnage and Levenshulme, and live in the local area, you can help by signing our collective letter to councillors and local leaders.

Help us get these measures trialled!

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