Research shows that Britain is one of Europe’s most congested countries. Hardly a surprise – so should drivers be doing more to limit the cars on the road or should we sit back and accept we’re in for a long journey?
It’s that time of year when I often find myself packing up the car and heading off somewhere nice for the weekend.
Unfortunately, getting to that ‘somewhere nice’ usually involves a slow getaway as the car crawls across London.
Figures out this week show what UK drivers probably already know; we have some of the worst traffic congestion in Europe. Sat nav company TomTom has come up with the 50 most gridlocked cities in Europe – and 16 of them are British. And, as if that’s not depressing enough, eight of them make the top 20.
London comes in at number three (under Brussels and Warsaw), with 34.5% of its roads regularly congested. Our Which? Car team looked at the top ten travel blackspots recently, in a bid to help drivers avoid jams during May Bank Holiday weekend, and a similar picture emerged. But while five blackspots where in London, the top spot actually went to Birmingham and the M5.
So it seems it isn’t just our capital that’s holding people up – most of Britain is gasping on car fumes. According to Friends of the Earth, traffic has increased by over 60% since 1980 and it costs the UK £19 billion a year. And it’s not just in major cities – back in my home town in Dorset, roads are undoubtedly getting busier, making me often question whether it’s any better than London.
Take the driving seat on clearing congestion
But if our roads are getting busier, what’s the future for drivers? Is it up to motorists to take responsibility to keep our roads clearer – and if so, how?
Car share schemes such as Liftshare and National CarShare are becoming increasingly popular. Every day there are 10 million empty seats on our roads, so these schemes make sense. Last year saw the first ever Liftshare Week and there are now over 400,000 people signed up to its network.
If getting in someone else’s car isn’t your dream drive, maybe a car club will appeal. This involves booking a car and picking it up from a designated bay in major cities. Which? Money researched car clubs in 2010 and found that a driver clocking up 3,000 miles a year could save up to £800, but the finances depend on how much you use your car and where you live.
Or maybe the answer is to simply trick the traffic – get a fancy sat nav that can predict which roads are busy and wind your way around the queues? The drawback? Usually only major roads, such as motorways and A-roads, are covered and, if the congestion hot spot is a daily occurrence (as opposed to a tailback behind an accident), it may not be flagged on your sat nav’s route.
Alternatively, of course, you could ditch the car altogether and use public transport or get on a bike instead.