By the end of 2009 there were 52,000 more vehicles on GB roads than at the end of 2008 and this is despite a big down-turn in car sales, and government money in a scrappage scheme to encourage sales until the end of March 2010. The scrappage scheme did at least take one old car of the road for each qualifying new car.
Between 1997 and the end of 2009 (roughly the period Labour’s term of office) the number of cars on GB roads increased by over 7 million or 27%! Clearly the purchasers of these additional vehicles plan to leave them somewhere when they are not in use. This may be outside some new house on a shiny new driveway or somewhere else out of the way however I am sure many front gardens were dug up with associated dropped kerbs, creating their own problems for pedestrians. Many will of course have been squeezed onto the highway where-ever possible, across pavements, on verges etc etc. Here is a graph showing the relentless increase in vehicle numbers in Great Britain since 1950.
And here is the graph showing just the registrations and scrappages each year for 1960 onwards. The bumps and lumps in the curve generally fit with the state of the economy.
The lack of sales and relatively low increase in the vehicle stock is in general treated as a problem by government because of the lack of ‘growth’ which is in their view always a good thing. In human beings uncontrolled growth is known to a huge problem (we call it cancer!) and if the pet hamster we had as a kid hadn’t stopped growing at the right moment then results would have been disastrous as pointing out in this wonderful little animation.
There are however also encouraging signs that we may be approaching a peak in vehicle numbers and that they could drop significantly in the coming years. Car clubs are growing fast, cycling is growing fast, rail travel is growing fast and mileage in cars per head of population has actually been on its way down for some time now. In addition the iPhone, blackberry and other smart phones can only be used when someone else is driving. Personally I think it is the mobile communications devices that will encourage most people out of their cars so that they can work while traveling. That is the subject for one of more later post though!