Small cars could be the answer to traffic congestion

Published: Sunday 3rd January 2016 by The News Editor

Comments (1)

Towns and roads in the UK are becoming more clogged with traffic every year. While some measures to reduce congestion have been introduced, such as more cycle lanes and improved public transport, the numbers are still going up. If we cannot reduce the number of cars, should we look to reduce the size of them instead?

In Japan, there is a whole section of cars for sale called Kei cars. They are compact cars that, by law, cannot be longer than 3.4m and no wider than 1.48m, and they can only be fitted with an engine of up to 660cc to encourage low emissions and high economy.

An example of a Kei car made in Europe is the Smart Fortwo, which shows the sort of fun car that can be built within tight regulations. In Japan, there is a whole raft of Kei cars, from five-seater family estates to two-seater sports cars.

While the Kei car model may not be the ideal solution for the UK’s clogged-up roads, it does pose an interesting alternative to trying to regulate traffic or creating more space for it. It has been shown in a number of studies that building new roads is not a solution to traffic congestion. Simply put, the more space you create for traffic, the more it will expand to fill that space, so the problem just becomes worse.

At present, all cars pay Vehicle Excise Duty, better known as road tax, based on each car’s carbon dioxide emissions. This has prompted most car buyers to opt for a car with lower emissions, which has helped cut the UK’s carbon footprint significantly.

Using this type of tax system to penalise those who choose cars with high CO2 outputs and reward those who drive a low emissions car, it is surely possible to come up with a system that also prompts drivers to choose a smaller car?

A smaller car is likely to be cheaper to buy or lease and cost less to run, so the incentive is already there for many drivers. If legislation makes it attractive for car drivers to choose this type of vehicle, car makers will quickly follow with cars to suit this market. If you don’t think that’s likely, look at the way the market in the UK has swung towards diesel-powered cars since the mid-1990s when it became tax-efficient for company drivers to choose this type of engine.

As smaller cars occupy less road space, you can fit more into the same amount of road space or car parking. This means shorter traffic queues, more easily available parking and, perhaps, even cheaper parking as more cars can be fitted into a given space.

While some drivers will always need a larger car for practical purposes, incentivising most drivers to choose a smaller car could help unclog our towns and cities. It’s better that we, as drivers, have a say in this rather it being forced upon us.

Copyright Press Association 2016

Published: Sunday 3rd January 2016 by The News Editor

Comments (1)
  • Kevin Marshall

    Fair enough if the politicians and the like swop their Bentleys and Jags for these Noddy cars.That will never happen,also I thought the ”road tax’ was to repair and maintain the roads? looking at the state of our cart track pot hole ridden highways the money isn’t doing what it says on the tin.

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