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New cars growing 1cm wider every two years

Richard Aucock

Written By Richard Aucock

New cars are growing by an average of 10mm every two years, new research has revealed.

This means more than half of new cars are now too wide for the average on-street parking space.

Research from lobby group Transport & Environment shows that the average width of new cars sold in the first half of 2023 was 1803mm. This is up from 1778mm just five years ago.

The minimum on-street parking space in major across major European cities measures 1800mm – and more than half of the top 100 new cars sold now exceed this.

The lobby group is now calling for lawmakers to take action.

Ever-larger SUVs are said to be leaving too little space for other road users

What are the dangers of wider cars?

Transport & Environment says the trend towards wider cars is reducing the available road space for other cars and, in particular, cyclists.

What’s more, parked cars are encroaching ever-further onto footpaths.

Even with the average new car passing two similarly-sized parked cars, just 1.3 metres is left for cyclists on a one-way road.

Swap the cars for ‘mega SUVs’, which measure two metres wide (or 2.2 metres including door mirrors), and the cyclist is left with just 0.7m of road space.

While wider cars overall are harmful, the lobby group is particularly calling out bigger SUVs – pointing out the latest Land Rover Defender is more than 200mm wider than the previous model. The new Volvo EX90 is 41mm wider than the Volvo XC90.

What do campaigners say about wider cars?

“Cars have been getting wider for decades and that trend will continue until we set a stricter limit,” said Transport & Environment’s James Nix.

“Currently, the law allows new cars to be as wide as trucks [up to 2550mm]. The result has been big SUVs and American-style pick-up trucks parking on our footpaths and endangering pedestrians, cyclists and everyone else on the road.”

“Monster SUVs are a threat to the urban fabric of our cities,” added Barbara Stoll of the Clean Cities Campaign.

“Unless we act now, more and more of our precious public space will be taken away from people by ever-larger cars – this is not the cleaner, brighter and greener future that citizens want.”

The campaigners are now urging legislators to review the 2550mm width limit for cars – and for cities to impose higher parking charges on large SUVs and pick-ups.

The average new cars is now 1803mm wide. This is up from 1778mm back in 2018. The minimum specified on-street parking space in the UK is 1800mm.

The width of the Land Rover Defender has grown by 206mm in six years, stays Transport & Environment, while the BMW X5 has grown 600mm. The new Volvo EX90 is 410mm wider than the Volvo XC90.

Transport & Environment points out cars are becoming taller too. This, it says, is despite crash data showing a 100mm increase in height carries a 30% higher risk of fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and cyclist.


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