When trying to make change happen within your city, and especially for urban mobility, it’s important to know your numbers. This article provides a summary of all the key facts and figures about car use in cities, covering everything from the space they take up to their negative effects on mental wellbeing.
If you’re trying to reduce cars in your city, you will probably need to have challenging conversations with other people and decision-makers who perhaps don’t share your views. Maybe you’ll have to convince people that cities aren’t the best place for cars – and the best way to do this is to be able to back up your argument with a plethora of facts and figures in and around the topic.
- WHO estimates 7 million premature deaths per year are linked to air pollution
- Of that air pollution, private vehicle pollution alone accounts for 184,000 premature deaths per year globally
- Transport contributes around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally
- Passenger cars account for 60.7% of total CO2 emissions from road transport in Europe
- Transport is the fastest growing source of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions and the largest contributor to climate change
- A typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year
- Car pollution doesn’t just affect pedestrians – car drivers are exposed to almost 8 times more pollution than a cyclist
- Around 11 million cars were designed to cheat air pollution tests – all diesel cars tested in one study produced more pollution on the road than in the lab – some emitted up to 12 times the EU maximum.
- Diesel exhaust is directly linked with cancer: the WHO include particle matter and diesel exhaust in group 1 carcinogens
- Parked car requires at least 3x more space than public transport and 10x more than the bike (Nello-Deakin (2019))
- In the average western city 40% or more space is dedicated to cars.
- Motor vehicles are parked 95% of the time – drivers only spend 1 hour per day driving on average
- Average of 2.2 parking spaces registered per car in the US
- More than 30,000 square km of land is devoted to parking in the EU (Fren Inci) – which is about the size of Belgium
- The average parking space requires 180 square feet to 300 square feet of asphalt – that almost occupies as much space as a small studio apartment
- Cars also negatively impact mental health e.g., a study from the University of East Anglia showed that those whose commute involved physical activity, reported fewer feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and sleeplessness than drivers. The research also showed that buses and trains give people time to relax, read and socialise – whereas drivers reported more stress and difficulties concentrating.
- A study from King’s College London examined residents of Southeast London found a positive correlation between exposure to vehicle pollution and rates of common mental disorders
- The average motorist in the UK spends 188€ per month on keeping and maintaining their vehicle – not even including the original price of purchasing the car.
- The total cost of owning a car comes to around 7111€ on average.
- A 2015 study showed that driving and owning a personal car in a city costs 6 times more than riding a bicycle
- Fewer vehicles on the street results in drivers saving money due to the lack of congestion – between 2019 and 2020 drivers in the Germany saved 173 million EUR.
- In 2010 road crashes killed 1.24 million people
- 61 million people died in 2023, and as approximately 1.19 million people die as a result of road traffic accidents annually, that makes road collisions responsible for 1.95% of all deaths
- Cars kill more people than tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes or HIV/AIDS
- Over 90 percent of car crashes can be attributed to human error (Treat et al, 1979)
- More than 2,000 people in the US per day aged 16-65 use their smartphone and drive at least once per day (AT&T)
- The average motorist spends around 91 hours (almost 4 days per year) looking for parking.
- The average person spends 6 months of their lives waiting in traffic.
- The average American spends around 35 minutes per day commuting, which is the equivalent to 19 full workdays per year.
- In 2019, Mumbai, India, was the most congested city (65%). This was superseded by Moscow in 2020, which fell to second place the following year, despite rising from 54% to 61%. In 2023, London took the dubious crown – which was also the most expensive to drive through.
- Moscow (region) is the most traffic congested cityregion worldwide – with 99% of the region congested during the evening rush hour and an overall congestion of 54%
If you are looking for a even more detailed report on how the car industry is driving the climate crisis, check out this Greenpeace report.