The British are enthusiastic about mobility. They regard the opportunity to travel far, and frequently as a right. Some commuters spend up to two or three hours each day getting to work in London or some other big city and back home to their suburban or country homes in the evening. Most people do not spend quite so long each day travelling, but it is taken for granted that few people live near enough to their work or secondary school to get there on foot.
As elsewhere in Europe, transport in modem Britain is dominated by the motor car and there are the attendant problems of traffic congestion and pollution. These problems are, in fact, more they are in many other countries both because Britain is densely populated and also because a very high proportion of goods are transported by road.
Nearly three-quarters of households in Britain have regular use of a car and about a quarter have more than one car. The widespread enthusiasm for cars is, as elsewhere, partly a result of people using them to project an image of themselves. Another possible reason for the British being so attached to their cars is the opportunity which they provide to indulge the nation passion for privacy. Being in a car is like taking your ‘castle’ with you wherever you go. Perhaps this is why the occasional attempts to persuade people to ‘car pool’ (to share the use of a car to and from work) have met with little success.
The privacy factor may also be the reason why British drivers are less ‘communicative’ than the drivers of many other countries. They use their horns very little, are not in the habit of signalling their displeasure at the behaviour of oth’er road users with their hands and are a little more tolerant of both other drivers and pedestrians. They are also a little more safety conscious. Britain has the best road safety record in Europe. The speed limit on motorways is a little lower than in most other countries (70 mph =112kph) and people go over this limit to a somewhat lesser extent. In addition, there are frequent and costly government campaigns to encourage road safety.
Another indication that the car is perceived as a private space is that Britain was one of the last countries in Western Europe to introduce the compulsory wearing of seat belts (in spite of British concern for s~). This measure was, and. still is, considered by many to be a bit of an infringement of personal liberty.
The British are not very keen on mopeds or motorcycles. They exist, of course, but they are not private enough for British tastes. Every year twenty times as many new cars as two-wheeled motor vehicles are registered. Millions of bicycles are used, especially by younger people, but except in certain university towns such as Oxford and Cambridge, they are not as common as they are in other parts of north-western Europe. Britain has been rather slow to organize special cycle lanes. The comparative safety of the roads means that parents are not too worried about their children cycling on the road along with cars and lorries.