A new map-and-data merge vividly demonstrates that many urban areas in England and Wales have electoral wards where the majority of people don’t own cars. Some wards in London, Newcastle and other cities have car-ownership of less than 30 percent yet local and national governments continue to plough money mainly into facilities for motorists.
The new map has been created by Tom Forth of Imactivate, a data consultancy based in Leeds. The map uses information from the 2011 Census and the Office for National Statistics, and by plotting this often obtuse data on Google Maps it shows how car ownership in towns and cities in England and Wales is perhaps not as prevalent as politicians and planners seem to believe.
The map also shows that rural areas are highly car dependent, which isn’t surprising considering how public transport to such areas has been cut back over many years, including the Beeching-induced cuts to Britain’s rail network and the politically-motivated bus deregulation of the 1980s.
Forth says Imactivate works with data to “tell stories in a digital world.” He created BusStart, a smartphone app that evaluates bus routes and suggests changes that would better connect people with jobs. Last year Imactivate also used Google's flight data to discover that Britain’s hub airport isn’t Heathrow but Schiphol, a finding that was reported on BBC Radio 4.
Urban cycle advocates will no doubt use the car-ownership map to show businesses and local politicians that providing facilities that encourages more cycling and walking is economically and socially sound.
Active-travel consultant Philip Insall suggested that the map could be used to ask local politicians whether they know the car-ownership stats in their wards. Many perhaps don't.
However, even armed with facts, it can still be an uphill battle to convince local councillors that the residents they represent might not be as car-focussed as they might think. For instance, Newcycling, the cycling campaign group in Newcastle upon Tyne, plugged census data into a similar map in 2013 but found that most local councillors either ignored the evidence from the census data or didn't let it alter their car-centric views.