Having moved to England from San Francisco 2 years ago, my experience might help shed some light on the differences in attiude toward owning cars in the US and UK. For example, the rich here live in the country, and the less rich live in the city. This is almost opposite of the USA, and could be a part of this whole discussion.
Another thing is that prices here are very high to drive comparatively… I hear people griping about $50 fill ups in the US. Our o4 Mini costs around £75 to fill up, $117 bucks. That’s high! Car prices seem lower, but people might get paid a little differently (less for good reasons) than the US so it’s still expensive, making gas even more expensive. Combine that with a harder driving exam, difficult parking, super narrow roads, and generally better public transit - it makes sense not to bother with a car.
All that said, people do still do the commute like you might have to driving from SF to SJ. People commute up to Gloucester from Bristol, or from Wales into Bristol, which is about the same distance. And sometimes even further. Also, it’s hard to visit the interesting places that are away from public transport, so most of my friends do have cars.
Also many have never learned to drive and don’t have licenses - I can count 3 good friends in their 30s. They’ve never needed to drive in their whole lives! (this totally blew me away)
The interesting thing though is that until someone is doing well and maybe over 30 or 35 and/or has a commute, people don’t seem to make such a big deal about having a status symbol car. Among my friends and coworkers, they get something practical, sometimes beaters (IMO). Another interesting thing is that sometimes when people have money, the get a nice older car and tool around on the weekends (or at least thats when you see them).
Myself, I don’t drive and cycle because I live about 3 miles from work, and am way better for it. Back in the US, I had lots of cars over the years (4X4s, Sedans, Convertibles, Roadsters, etc) and long ommutes in Raleigh, Houston, and SF. You need a car because you might live in a suburb outside of town, or the public transit is full of crazy people, orwant to go to Yosemite on the weekend. Now, with the exception of my wife’s commute, our car is parked most of the time unless we’re going out of town.
Sure there are exceptions, and I only know what I’ve seen in my small corner of the country, but can totally see where that article is coming from. If they made even better public transport, cars could completely turn into a leisure activity - blasting the country roads or just tooling around.