ULEZ expansion: majority of Londoners reconsider transport options

London road with Big Ben and Westminster Bridge in the background and red double decker buses and cars in the foreground

Over the past few years we have sought the opinions of the general public, to find out what you all think about ULEZ – London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone. The zone, which currently covers the same area as the Congestion Charge zone, has received a mixed response since its launch in 2019. However, in October 2021, it’s set to expand, seeing more Londoners face a charge for their high-emission vehicles.

This year, we thought it was more important than ever to gather everyone’s feelings, not only towards the existing ULEZ, but its expansion. Will people be swapping four wheels for two? Is the future truly electric? Do people support the ULEZ scheme?

Key findings

  • 84.1% of Londoners will continue to drive or ride in the ULEZ following its expansion in October 2021
  • 72.2% have considered changing vehicles as a result of the ULEZ
  • 60.6% will affected by the ULEZ expansion
  • 27.2% have only considered electric vehicles because of the ULEZ
  • 77.8% approve of the ULEZ, no matter the impact it has on their lives.

Time for change: majority of people considering new transport

Data showing the percentage of Londoners intending to switch to greener modes of transport because of ULEZ

When we asked Londoners what they thought of the ULEZ, we found that 2.9% of people had actually got rid of the vehicles they owned before the introduction of the zone in 2019. We can already see how the ULEZ is having an impact on some of our locals, with Wandsworth being the borough with the most respondents having disposed of their vehicles (11.1%), followed by Hamersmith and Fulham (8%) and Hackney (7.5%).

While 84.1% will still be driving around the capital city, we found that one fifth (20%) of Londoners will now be riding or driving less due to the ULEZ and its expansion – another 9.5% have (or will) opt for a different mode of transport. While the ULEZ expansion is affecting how almost a third of Londoners get around their city, these figures have dropped over the years.

In our 2020 ULEZ survey, 65.3% of Londoners changed their usual mode of transport, but in our 2019 ULEZ census, 82.1% said that they were planning to do so. This suggests that for many, the idea of ULEZ was worse than the reality. Although locals may have fully intended to change their methods of transportation, far fewer of them actually did. So, does this mean that the government’s scheme to reduce emissions is going to plan?

While just 9.5% of people have already committed to a new mode of transport, a huge 72.2% are considering it. With around 3.8 million people living within the ULEZ expansion area, this mindset could help to achieve the reductions in the air pollution the scheme is hoping to achieve.

No more cars: public transport triumphs

Data graphic showing the modes of transport Londoners are considering due to ULEZ

With 72.2% of London’s population considering a lifestyle change when it comes to their modes of transport, let’s see which are the most popular alternative options.

20.1% of people are eyeing up low-emissions and electric cars. 9.3% of people are considering low emission two wheel vehicles, such as scooters, mopeds and motorbikes, and another 9.3% of people are thinking about using push bikes.

However, it is public transport that triumphs – unsurprising when the capital city has the Underground, National Rail and a comprehensive bus network. In fact, in 2020, London was ranked as the second best best connected city in the world, following Singapore. While 36.1% of people are using or considering public transport, 25.2% could be ditching their wheels for their legs, with walking being the second most preferred option.

The future is electric

Chart showing whether ULEZ has accelerated people's intentions to buy an electric vehicle

Electric transportation is becoming increasingly popular, and our findings further prove that. When asked if the ULEZ has accelerated their intentions to buy an electric vehicle, the majority of people said yes (73.4%).

27.2% of these respondents provided a confident yes, while 25.8% said they would make the switch as soon as they feel an electric vehicle suits their needs. 20.4% say they would switch as soon as affordable electric vehicles are more commonplace, and the remaining 6.5% said they were going to make the switch anyway, regardless of the ULEZ.

These attitudes, along with the government’s decision to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, could trigger a surge in the electric vehicle market.

Specifically as an alternative to using an electric vehicle, another 6.6% of people will still be using greener alternatives to travelling around the city – 4.4% prefer public transport and 2.2% are dedicated to walking or cycling. There were only 13.5% of our respondents who planned to continue using their petrol vehicles.

For or against ULEZ – how do people really feel?

Graph showing the percentage of people who think ULEZ is a good idea

As we can see, the introduction of the ULEZ has impacted the London locals, but despite the increased interest in electric vehicles fewer people have committed to changing their travel methods over the past few years. So, how do Londoners really feel about the ULEZ and it’s forthcoming expansion?

Less than half of the people surveyed (40.3.%) feel that the ULEZ is a good idea, and this positive attitude is declining. In 2019, the year the ULEZ was introduced, 47% thought it was a good idea, and 44.9% felt this way in 2020.

Graph showing how perceptions of ULEZ has changed over time

Many people indicated that they think the ULEZ is a good scheme, but are frustrated by its impact on their lives. While 44.6% of people felt this way in 2019, 43.2% agreed in 2020 and only 37.5% said the same in 2021. Thankfully, 77.8% of our respondents are in favour of the zone, despite its inconveniences.

Of those who think the ULEZ is a bad idea, 11.7% think there are other ways the government should fight climate change. Another 10.5% feel the ULEZ has more to do with money than it does climate change. Perhaps these figures explain the decline in Londoners’ support for ULEZ and their intention to transport.

Clean Air Zones: majority in favour for a greener future

While the majority of Londoners are in favour of the government’s initiative towards a greener future, what does the rest of the UK think? We asked the same questions to find out how people feel about the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) across some of the UK’s major cities, including Birmingham, Glasgow and Bristol.

76.1% of the general public support the introduction of CAZs, although 38.7% of this group also believe their impact will be frustrating. Only 12.8% do not support the introduction of CAZs, feeling that there are better alternatives, and even fewer (11.1%) feel their introduction would be more about money than climate change. While some scepticism remains, the verdicts are very similar, with the vast majority being in favour of the zones.


Ultimately, we can see that the ULEZ has had a great impact on how Londoners travel – a feeling echoed around the rest of the UK when it comes to CAZs. The zones have changed many people’s views towards electric vehicles, public transport and motorcycles. However, fewer people have made the transition towards greener transport than anticipated two years ago and the frustrations with the ULEZ only seem to be growing. Once electric vehicles become more affordable to the masses, people will adopt cleaner travel and skepticism will fade.

If you’re considering two wheels over four, ensure your motorbike – whether it’s an electric, petrol or diesel bike – is insured. Contact Bikesure today for a quote.

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August 8, 2023