Skip to the main content

New research: Stealing our cities

A new ECCI-supported research report, published this week by the by Scottish Parliament's think-tank - Scottish Futures Forum - shows how city space is being overwhelmingly used for private cars.

The research was conducted by Marli de Jongh, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, during a policy internship funded by SAGES, the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society.

Working with Scotland’s Futures Forum and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), Marli looked into how much space is dedicated to different uses in parts of Glasgow and Dundee.

With a particular focus on transport, the research casts a light on how we currently use – and could use – the finite space we have in our cities to support a more sustainable approach to life.

Land-use analysis

The aim of this project was to assess how space is allocated in city environments, with a focus on how much space is dedicated to private vehicles in comparison to other modes of transport.

Using three case studies in Glasgow and Dundee, the study shows that space is overwhelmingly dedicated to the car: roads, car parks and on-street parking cumulatively account for the highest proportion of space at each site. Across each case study, space dedicated to cars ranged between 34.5% and 41% .

Furthermore, green spaces, public transport and cycling infrastructure are extremely lacking and appear to be of relatively low priority. This is particularly apparent at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), Glasgow – host venue to COP21 – where more space is dedicated to outdoor smoking than bike parking.

Futures Forum director Claudia Beamish MSP said: “Stealing Our Cities really gets us thinking about what sort of spaces and places we want to live in and welcome visitors to.

“The research shows a depressing dependency on the private car at the sites analysed.

“The recommendations, if acted on widely, would make for a much more pleasant city experience with more green space, easier and safer walking and cycling opportunities.” Futures Forum director Claudia Beamish MSP

The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP, chairman of the Futures Forum’s board of directors, added: “The Future Forum seeks to bring fresh perspectives to our political thinking and how we prepare for the future.

"This analysis, which encourages us to look afresh at how our cities are designed, is a great example of that work

“All parties in the Scottish Parliament are committed to tackling climate change. With transport accounting for over a third of emissions in Scotland, this analysis encourages us all to consider how the status quo can be changed to do that.”

Read the full report and research summary.


Supported by ECCI, the SAGES network gives organisations, businesses and policy-makers to access geosciences-related expertise from across Scotland.

ECCI helps SAGES engage end users (industry, policy-makers, third sector organisations) with research projects and supports internships like Marli's through the SAGES Innovation Programme, a pioneering career enhancement opportunity for SAGES PhD students.