Reduce car trips and get fitter, happier, study shows

Australians are happier, more active, less stressed and better connected to their communities when they replace car trips with alternative modes of transport, a study has revealed. 

But the research, conducted for Uber, also found households faced barriers to accessing alternative transport, planning trips was not as simple as it could be, and older Australians were among the least likely to replace travel in private cars. 

The findings came during a record-setting year for new car sales in Australia and as the rate of car ownership in the nation exceeded that of other countries. 

Uber's One Less Car study, conducted by The Behavioural Architects, challenged 58 Australians to give up the use of one of their cars for four weeks.

Participants included 31 people with two cars at home, 21 people with one car, and six who did not own a vehicle.

During the study, the group's average number of car trips dropped from 21 to 19 trips per week while time walking increased by 75 per cent, and transport on bicycles and e-bikes jumped by 322 per cent. 

Participants also took more trips on public transport, in ride-share vehicles and used carpooling.

Uber strategy and planning head Anna Paula Brito told AAP many participants reported doing more exercise as a result of the transport change, as well as feeling better connected to their family members and neighbourhoods.

"We saw steps went up for everyone but in the anecdotes... a lot of people talked about their stress levels being a lot lower," she said.

"People felt closer to their communities and even the people in their houses."

The study also identified differences between participants based on their age and circumstances, with older people less likely to give up car rides completely.

"We definitely saw (single and double income households with no kids) and the families were more successful at re-moding away from cars into the other types of transport," she said. 

"The empty-nesters, even though they were successful at giving up their private car... they were a bit more hesitant to move away from the comforts of a private vehicle."

New car imports at Port Kembla
The federal government estimates there are more than 15.1 million privately owned cars in Australia.

The research also uncovered barriers to ditching car trips, including inequitable access to public and active transport options, inconsistent alternatives, difficulty planning alternative transport routes, and participants' emotional attachment to cars.

But Uber Australia general manager Dom Taylor said the results proved it was possible for households to reduce their dependence on privately owned vehicles.

"We believe that Australia's road to zero emissions depends not solely on EV adoption but on a fundamental shift across society away from private car dependence," he said. 

"The results have been clear that there is appetite and opportunity for real change."

Australians have purchased a record number of new cars this year, however, with figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries revealing sales broke the one million barrier in October. 

The federal government estimates there are more than 15.1 million privately owned cars on local roads, putting Australian car ownership rates above the UK and Germany.

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