THE rising cost of running a car is pushing local people into poverty and making it difficult for them to get to work.

That’s according to a new report by charity Sustrans, backed by Save the Children and Age UK.

The report, released today, says that more than four and a half million people across south-east England are at risk of being cut off from work and healthcare because of the rising costs of owning and running a car, and a lack of alternatives, with 90,000 at serious risk of being cut off from society.

Residents on the Isle of Wight are worst hit, with 15 per cent facing a serious risk of debt from accessing everyday goods and services, while 170,000 Southampton residents – of a population of 240,000 – are feeling the pinch from the cost of getting around. The report, Locked Out, calls on ministers to invest in public transport and safe walking and cycling routes to give people alternatives to increasingly expensive car ownership.

Simon Pratt, Sustrans regional director in the south-east, said: “For decades ministers have made decisions based on everyone having easy access to a car, forcing many of us into car ownership we can barely afford and leaving others stranded. We need a transport system that works for everyone.”

Southampton cycling trainer Dilys Gartside, a member of Southampton Cycling Campaign, believes safety concerns are the primary reason more people don’t use bikes.

She says it is important Southampton has more pro-cycling councillors and the police take action against drivers who speed. She adds that Southampton city council should be applauded for incorporating cycle routes into some of its new road developments but that more could be done, especially on existing routes.

“We have lots of little cycle routes that don’t lead you anywhere except into danger – some routes suddenly stop,” she says.

Dilys adds that reducing the speed limit to 20 on most residential roads, as has been done in Portsmouth, would also make a huge difference.