There are four things to consider when planning any journey:

  • Practicality
  • Distance
  • Necessity
  • The environmental impact


The first thing to think of when planning a journey is ‘what have I got to take?’ If you have to take more with you than you can carry, then walking or cycling are probably not good options for making the trip. If you intend to visit several places, and public transport is unsuitable for that particular trip, then a car may be the better option.


If the journey you are planning is short enough, you may be able to walk it. If you are in a hurry, consider cycling or taking public transport. These three options are among the most environmentally friendly ways of getting around.


You need to decide before any journey whether it’s essential that you make it immediately. If weather conditions are poor, and you feel a little apprehensive about driving in it, is the journey necessary? Could the journey be delayed, or even postponed? If you are leaving during rush hour, would your vehicle just be adding to the congestion? Is there a necessity in the journey to plan for, for example, taking medication, or stopping for breaks, feeding the baby, checking your directions, recharging the vehicle, or to refuel?

The environmental impact

Walking, cycling, sharing vehicles (such as public transport), and using electric vehicles are among the most environmentally friendly way of travelling. Meanwhile, transport accounts for more than a third of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions [1]. More efficient and cleaner burning engines help address these environmental problems, but our decisions about mode of transport and journey necessity that play the biggest role.

Road space is quickly becoming a premium. There are approximately 262,000 miles of ‘paved roads’ in the UK [2,3], and an estimated 39 million licensed vehicles [4]. This equates to 149 vehicles per road mile – God forbid they all hit the road at the same time! Many of these vehicles are also more than 21 metres in length so will take up more room and make journey necessity an even more important consideration.

With all this in mind, the importance of careful journey planning cannot be overstated. If you’re taking a car, you need to think about where you will park, if you’ll need to go through tolls or low-emission zones, and what route is best to take to get there. If it is practical to go by train or coach, the route is mapped out for you, but when you’re driving you have to do the hard work yourself.

If you have an electric vehicle, ensure that you have the appropriate charging leads, map out the charging locations, and give yourself more time on long journeys – or even plan for an overnight stay if necessary. Also, if any vehicle has shared multiple drivers, they all need to be insured and familiar with driving the vehicle with its load and technology.

References Down arrow icon to open accordion
  1. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2020), 2019 UK greenhouse gas emissions, provisional figures
  2. Department for Transport (2021), Road length statistics (RDL), RDL0103
  3. Department for Infrastructure (2020), Northern Ireland transport statistics 2019-2020
  4. Department for Transport (2021), Vehicle licensing statistics: Annual 2020

Howard Redwood

Head of Road Safety, Driving Instructors Association