More Than Half of Commutes Globally Made by Car, Study Finds


A new study of urban transport finds that most commuters globally are getting to work by car, fueling pollution, particularly in wealthier regions.

“The takeaway is clear: We drive too many cars,” said lead author Rafael Prieto-Curiel, of the Complexity Science Hub, a research group based in Vienna.

The study analyzed transport data from nearly 800 cities worldwide, finding that around 51 percent of commutes are made by car, while 26 percent are made by public transit, 16 percent by bike, and 6 percent on foot. But the study, published in Environment International, revealed huge variation between regions.

Africa has the highest proportion of commutes made by foot or bike, at nearly 38 percent, while East Asia has the highest proportion made by public transit, at 46 percent. Wealthier regions tend to see more trips made by car. In Europe, 45 percent of commutes are by car, while in the U.S. and Canada the proportion is 92 percent.

While electric vehicles are growing in popularity, helping to curb tailpipe pollution, the study warned that heavy reliance on cars still contributes to urban sprawl, road traffic, and particulate pollution from wear and tear on tires.

“The burden of cars in cities is huge and goes beyond the combustion of petrol,” said Prieto-Curiel. “It is also the parking space required, the driving infrastructure, the noise they produce, the toxic materials used in manufacturing and road pavement, the crashes they cause, and others.”


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