Great-Britain: Motor vehicle commutes increased by 39,2% in 25 years

360 billion miles

…is the overall distance commuted on motor vehicles across Great-Britain in 2019. This is 39,2% more than in 1993, while the UK population grew 15,7% over the same period. A distance equivalent to 1,44 million times around the Earth.

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Overall distance commuted by motor vehicles in 1993

displayInfo.distance_1993 billions of miles

Overall distance commuted by motor vehicles in 2019

displayInfo.distance_2019 billions of miles

An overall 39,5% increase in motor vehicle commutes since 1993

Brits commuting numbers increase faster than the UK demographic growth: this is what statistics published by the Department of Transport show. While the UK population grew by 15,7% between 1993 and 2019, motor vehicles commutes jumped of 39,5% over the same period in Great-Britain, passing from an overall distance of 258,6 to 360,8 billion of vehicle miles. Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) account for the majority of this rise, with an ever-growing proportion among motor vehicles used by Brits to commute.

14 million
times around the earth 

…is the distance commuted by motor vehicles in Great-Britain in 2019

115,1%
increase in LCVs commuted distances

…between 1993 and 2019 in Great-Britain

– 17,2%
decrease in buses & coaches commuted distances

…over the last 26 years, showing the decline of this kind of public transportation

Distances commuted by car ever-increasing in Great-Britain

While the UK population is steadily increasing, the distances commuted in motor vehicles are growing even faster. Even if in recent years, global warming has questioned our way to commute, the numbers show no decrease trend in the use or car & taxis in the UK. Indeed, the distance commuted by car & taxis increased 32,9% between 1993 and 2019, passing from 210,1 to 279,2 billion of miles commuted.

Except for the coaches & buses category, the average distances commuted every year by the other categories of motor vehicle are increasing. The growth in LCVs use for commuting is particularly spectacular:


Use of LCVs booming in the UK since 1993

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) are commonly defined as commercial carrier vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of no more than 3.5 metric tons (including pickup trucks and vans), used to carry passenger or based goods, mostly intra-city. As the table below shows, the proportion of use of LCVs has increased a lot since 1993 in Great-Britain:

Type of vehicleProportion of use (1993)Proportion of use (2019)
Car & Taxis81,25%77,38%
Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs)9,98%15,38%
HGV5,72%4,79%
Coaches & Buses1,12%0,67%
Motorcycles & scooters0,97%0,83%
Pedal cycles0,97%0,94%
Proportion of use of motor vehicles per category in the UK (source : Department of Transport)

Indeed, the LCVs proportion is the only one increasing, whilst all the other categories see their proportion declining in the overall mix of motor vehicles used to commute in Great-Britain.

Bus distances declining, cycle use proportion decreasing : bad news for the environment

There has been growing concern about environmental issues in the UK over the past decade. However the numbers tend to prove that the use of coaches & buses and pedal cycles – two major alternatives to the use of individual motor vehicles – is not going up. That is rather the contrary:

  • In 26 years, the distance commuted by coaches & buses in Great-Britain has decreased 17,2%. Its proportion in the overall miles commuted by motor vehicles shrunk from 1,12% in 1993 to 0,67% in 2019, a sign that public transportation in small and average cities (which do not have tramway nor subway networks) is less and less popular
  • From 1993 to 2019, the distance made by pedal cycles increased 36% in Great-Britain. However, its proportion in the overall miles commuted by motor vehicles has not improved: being 0,97% two decades and a half ago, it is now 0,94%. This means the growth of pedal cycles commuting is slower than the overall growth in motor vehicles commuting. The way is still very long to the cycle revolution.

Greater London: an exception among the UK regions

Among the Great-Britain regions, Greater London has the particularity of being very urban – which makes a big difference on the way its inhabitants commute. It is therefore not surprising to see that in London, motor vehicle commutes increased less than anywhere else in Great-Britain: 19,1% overall between 1993 and 2019 – half the increase observed overall in the island (39,5%).


The numbers show that in Greater London :

  • Car & Taxis commutes ‘only’ increased 10,2% between 1993 and 2019 (against 32,9% in the entire Great-Britain)
  • The distances covered by HGVs and coaches & buses are steady
  • The use of motorcycles & scooters dramatically rose a lot in the past 26 years
  • The distance covered by pedal cycles has increased by a third.
  • The use of LCVs boomed, but in a smaller proportion in comparison with the rest of the country.

Those numbers tend to prove that the policies implemented by local authorities in London for two decades to reduce the space of individual motor vehicles in the city are producing great results. However, the sharp rise in motorcycles & scooters use could soon represent a new environmental challenge for the UK capital.

Key facts from the Great-Britain regions (1993-2019)

Here below are presented key numbers on the changes in the way Brits commute in the different regions of Great-Britain:

South West England 

…is the region where overall motor vehicle commutes increased the most between 1993 and 2020 : + 51%

North East England

…is the only region where HGVs commutes decreased over the past 26 years : – 20 % overall

Wales & Scotland

…are the regions where the use of motorcycles & scooters rose the most in GB: + 100%

Greater London 

…is the region where car & taxis commutes increased the less : ‘only’ + 10.2%

East of England

…is the region where HGVs commutes increased the most : + 29,4 %

South East England

…is the GB region where most miles were commuted in 2019: 57,7 billions of miles

Our methodology

This study is based upon public information provided by the UK government Department of Transport. For further information on our editorial guidelines please click here.

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