Car ownership has crept back up again in London in the past 12 months after falling for 5 successive years. But the longer term trend is down and a tale of two Londons – inner and outer – is emerging in Londoners’ relationship with cars.
Data from the Department of Transport shows that 2.71 million private or lights good vehicles were licensed in London last year. That is down from a peak of 2.76 million in 2008. Total car ownership in the capital then fell each year until last year, perhaps driven by the financial crisis.
Last year numbers nudged up in all but 3 boroughs (Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea) but the trend in inner London boroughs shows a significant drop between 2008-2014. In Wandsworth the number of licensed vehicles fell by 21% and in Hackney and Islington by 9%.
Urbs has used the data to calculate car density across the capital and an inner/outer London difference emerges very clearly. Total numbers for 2014 equate to 31 cars for every 100 residents, or roughly 1 car for every 3 people.
But in all the boroughs defined as inner London, which have seen the greatest population growth, the ratio of cars to people is lower. In many of the outer boroughs it is considerably higher.
In Tower Hamlets and Hackney there are 15 cars per 100 people. The availability of public transport and taxi service compared to the inconvenience of having a car in the centre of the city with limited or high costs parking may be significant factors.
In Harrow in the west and Havering in the east ownership is 3 times that level with 49 cars per 100 people. The below average availability of public transport, as reported by Urbs, may mean that people in outer areas still rely on owning a car.