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The top 5 places in the UK to live where you don’t have to drive

  1. 25 August 2022
  2. By Jeremy Greer

There are many reasons why you may want to live somewhere where you don't need a car - maybe you can't drive, you want to reduce your carbon footprint, or you can't bear seeing how much it costs to fill up your car these days.



Where are those places where public transport is so extensive that a car is not needed? Or those places with such fantastic walking and biking routes that driving a car becomes wholly unnecessary?

We’ve taken a look at the top 5 places in the UK where you won’t need to drive to enjoy life or get around with ease.

London

It might sound like a strange choice, given the traffic that regularly clogs up the capital, but it’s also the case that a car in London isn’t really necessary given the wealth of transport links on offer.

Residents really are spoilt for choice. There’s the Underground, Overground, National Rail, the recently opened Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), the DLR, buses, trams, taxis, e-scooters and Santander bikes.

Plus, it’s usually easy to walk from one part of London to another, typically via one of the capital’s many fantastic green spaces, including some of the best public parks in the world.

The cost of driving in London can be prohibitive, too, thanks to policies such as the congestion charge and the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which are designed to try and combat traffic and pollution.

The capital also has numerous cycle routes and highways – although improvements still need to be made on the safety aspect of this – and very many walking routes, whether it be by the Thames, by the side of canals or the backstreets and narrow roads of the City.

With so many great transport links on offer, and much of London easy to navigate by foot, the first question that comes to mind is: why anyone would need a car in the capital?

Edinburgh

The Scottish capital, as well as being one of the prettiest and most historic cities in the UK, is also one of the most pedestrian-friendly. You can get around vast parts of the city on foot, and it doesn’t take long to get from one part of the city to the next.

Edinburgh is home to two railway stations, Haymarket and Waverley, which offer great transport links to other parts of Scotland and the UK as a whole. It also has an excellent bus service covering all parts of the cities and elsewhere, with tickets that are competitively priced.

A more recent addition, since 2014, has been Edinburgh’s trams, with a 15-stop line between York Place in New Town and Edinburgh Airport.

Edinburgh did have a cycle hire scheme, equivalent to Boris bikes in London, for three years, but this was closed in September 2021. Despite this, there are a number of bike hire places in the city, and plenty of good cycling routes.

The city itself is a dream for walkers, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore in a city with loads of narrow, jagged, higgledy-piggledy streets that throw up new surprises and gems each time. 

Southend-on-Sea

Those looking for a bit of coastal living, with good transport links to London and plenty of walking and biking opportunities, should consider this popular seaside town, which is famously home to the longest pleasure pier in the world.

In a study carried out by GoCompare in 2021, which analysed ONS data to find out the best locations to live in the UK without a car, the Essex town took third spot, only behind London and Portsmouth. It was, however, pointed out by the study as the best place to live outside of London, specifically as a cyclist.

Southend-on-Sea is also very easy to get around by foot and is blessed with an array of green space in the form of parks for people to wander through. It also offers plenty of excellent coastal walks, whether it be along the promenade or the mile or so walk to the end of the pier.

The town and its surroundings are home to a number of National Rail stations with fast links into London, via greatanglia or c2c, as well as a strong bus network, making a car redundant in this part of the world.

Wallasey

Wallasey, a town on the Wirral in Merseyside, is perhaps most famous for its connections to The Beatles and being the port from which the world’s first hovercraft operated from in the 1960s, but it’s also blessed with very strong walking and biking opportunities which make a car a must-not-have.

It’s home to a number of railway stations and local parks, and offers easy access into Liverpool, itself one of the UK’s most walker-friendly cities. It also plays host to a number of cycling trails and a strong bus network.

Reading

The town, which is virtually a city in all but name, is most famous for its annual music festival, its reputation as a growing tech and innovation hub (dubbed the UK’s Silicon Valley by some) and its Thames-side location, but it’s also a dream for those who don’t have a car.

Big parts of the town centre are pedestrianised, while the Thames and the Kennett & Avon canal offer fantastic walking, cycling and running opportunities.

The town has an extensive (and mostly green-friendly) bus network to enable people to get around Reading and beyond, while its rail station is one of the key commuter hubs outside of London and a gateway to the South West, as well as Wales and parts of the Midlands and North.

Transport links into the capital are fantastic, with regular trains to London Paddington taking only 25 minutes. It’s also the western terminus for the recently opened Elizabeth Line. Trains also offer easy access to Henley in one direction and Oxford in the other.

To get around the town and its outskirts easily certainly does not require a car.

 

As the cost-of-living crisis looks set to worsen, with no sign of fuel price increases easing off, the concept of car-free living may start to become more attractive than ever. So it's helpful to be aware of these cities and towns, among others, in the UK that don’t require one.

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