It is commonly assumed that owning a car is essential if you want to travel efficiently in rural areas. Sustainable transport is seen as an urban privilege facilitated by a frequent public transport system and by the closer proximity of essential services to households. Due to dispersed population, low density and difficult terrain, providing effective public transport in rural areas has been seen as too expensive and too difficult.
Transport policy in rural areas has instead focussed on extending the road network typically by building bypasses around market towns. Since the mid-80s the distance of car travel has increase by nearly a third and the number of cars on the road by nearly 50 per cent, but journey times have remained constant.
The focus of transport policy to encourage people to travel further and faster by road, has contributed to
the growth in UK carbon emissions. The transport sector accounts for over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions with personal car use alone contributing to 14% of the total. The trend to travel further and faster has also subordinated the needs of those without easy access to cars. In Gwynedd, north west Wales nearly a quarter of the county’s households do not have a car and in Pembrokeshire over a fifth are car-less. Yet despite these statistics society is increasingly planned on the assumption that everyone is mobile. Jobs, shops, health care and leisure facilities are increasingly being closed in small villages and placed out of reach on peripheries that are inaccessible without a car. The Welsh Assembly’s Rural sub-committee found that people in rural areas are more likely than their urban or valleys counterparts to travel 30 km or more to get to work.