These maps show which English cities are least reliant on cars

Islands of green in a sea of red. Image: Tom Forth/Google.

People who live in inner centres are weird. That's not me being rude (I mean, I live in inner London myself). It's a statistical fact. In England and Wales as a whole, most households own cars. Most inner city households don't.

In England as a whole, according to Department for Transport figures for 2013-14, just 25 per cent of households don't own cars. In major cities, though, that number is 34 per cent. In London it's 43 per cent. 

There might be all sorts of explanations for this. Residents of many inner cities are more likely to be poorer, for one thing; they’re less likely to have access to parking, for another.

But the big one has got to be need. If you're living in a field somewhere in rural Shropshire, you basically aren’t going anywhere without wheels. (Those same figures show that just 6 per cent of households categorised as rural didn't have cars.) If you live in the city centre, though, you can probably walk from your flat to your job to the pub where you're meeting your mates.

And even if you can't, you're more likely to have access to public transport.  Look:

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This map shows the percentage of households without cars in the West Midlands, using data from the 2011 census. It’s the work of data analyst and occasional CityMetric writer Tom Forth.

You can see at a glance that, in the conurbation's various inner cities – Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton – more than half of households don't have cars. In the inner suburbs, those figures drop to about a third; in the outer suburbs, it's a fifth. By the time you're in the country, the figures are pretty much negligible.

There's a similar pattern in the West Yorkshire conurbation....

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...and up in Tyne & Wear:

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Which is odd, because that conurbation has a rather fine Metro network.

In Liverpool, the low car area seems to be bigger – though whether that reflects the reach of Merseyrail, or something else, we're not sure.

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The same is true of Manchester, with its ever expanding tram network:

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And as for London, the low car zone is unsurprisingly huge:

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It seems to extend further into north London than it does into south. The obvious explanation for this is that tube coverage is a lot stronger in the north than the south – though that wouldn't explain the low car ownership rates in tube-free Hackney.

Zoom out, and you can see how London's various commuter satellites are relatively low-car islands in a sea of red:

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It tends to be larger cities that have low car ownership rates, of course. By way of comparison, here's what Milton Keynes and nearby Bedford look like.

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Not a green ward in sight.

You can play with the map – and click on individual wards, to get the data – here.

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Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.