Traffic graphics show dramatic effects of coronavirus on major UK cities

New graphics have revealed the stark effect the coronavirus lockdown has had on traffic levels in some of the UK’s biggest cities.

The visualisations use Google traffic data to compare pre-lockdown road conditions with those since the Government introduced travel restrictions, revealing decreases of more than 80 per cent in some cities.

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The study used weekday data for the period between 8.30am and 8.40am - peak commuting time - and compared April 2020 to the to the period immediately before the lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Belfast saw the greatest decrease in traffic, with a 83.5 per cent drop, just ahead of Cardiff’s 83.07 per cent. But every city examined showed a massive drop in traffic as shops, tourist attractions and other businesses closed and most people either stopped working or began to work from home. Even London saw a 77.6 per cent drop post-lockdown, with both the city centre and notorious M25 far quieter than usual.

Edinburgh, where the compact city centre is usually a log-jam of cars, buses and vans is virtually jam free on the post-lockdown map, reflecting a 77.3 per cent fall in traffic as commuters obey instructions to stay at home.

It’s a similar picture in Belfast, where traffic is suddenly flowing freely on the usually-congested A12 and A24, and in Newcastle, where traffic hotspots including the Tyne and Redheugh bridges have seen huge drops in the number of vehicles.

The data was compiled by Leasing Options to see how closely motorists were sticking to the travel restrictions.

Official reports from the Cabinet Office estimate that traffic around the UK has fallen between 60 and 80 per cent since the lockdown began on March 23.

UK traffic decreases

City % decrease in traffic
Belfast 83.52
Cardiff 83.07
Manchester 82.6
Birmingham 81.03
Newcastle 80.36
Edinburgh 77.27
London 77.61
Liverpool 74.07

However, the quieter roads have raised other issues, with police reporting significant increases in the number and severity of speeding offences. Some forces have seen cases increase by more than 50 per cent and the Metropolitan Police has stepped up patrols after reporting offenders reaching more than 70mph in 20mph zones.