Monday, 4 March 2013

Peak Car and Carfree Youth

Some interesting coverage in the Financial Times a couple of weeks back about the decline in the number of young people taking driving tests – down 20% in the past five years due to the economic downturn, high insurance costs and demographic changes which are “beginning to transform a generation’s relationship with cars.” As the FT continues, “data show the number with access to cars has been waning, while those who do have cars appear to be driving fewer miles each week. The decline has been sharper among young men than young women. Young people are also driving less in other developed­ countries, including the US, Germany and Japan.” 

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Dr Tobias Kuhnimhof, an academic at the Institute for Mobility Research, the research facility for German carmaker BMW, concluded in a November 2012 paper that there was a “strong indication of profound changes in the travel behaviour among young adults in industrialised countries”.

As the FT says, “Some transport academics note that the trend for young people to drive less has been under way for at least 10 years, suggesting other factors are also at work. An increasing number of young people are living in cities, living with their parents, marrying later and having children later – all of which makes them less likely to drive. Some also speculate that the internet and smartphones have offered young people alternative ways to stay in touch with their friends and family.” 

Research for the RAC carried out by academics at Imperial College London and University College London found that average “car driver mileage” for Londoners aged 16 to 29 fell about 50% between 1996 and 2010 – and about 33% in the rest of the country for those from the same age group. The really interesting thing is what happens as this cohort gets older – will they view owning a car as a financial black hole and a load of hassle, and, as a result, stay carfree?

(There was also a piece on Peak Car in The Economist in 2012 and there’s a quick read on the main issues from consultancy JMP here).

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