Impact of COVID-19 on the traffic flow through Cambridge using Vivacity sensor network data

Posts by Cath Firmin, Thursday, 9 April, 2020

Throughout this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever that we work together with our partners across the UK councils to analyse our sensor data, in order to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on town and city transport movement.

Michael Stevens, Enabling Digital Delivery Project Manager at Cambridgeshire County Council has been looking at the impact of COVID-19 and the government guidance on traffic flows in Cambridge and has produced  a series of graphs.

The County Council is currently equipped with 25 Vivacity sensors across the city to monitor traffic flows, and the results show that there has been a 50% drop in traffic movement compared to the usual flow over the past five weeks.

Michael Stevens explains: “The data collected from Vivacity Labs sensors gives us a better understanding of how people move around Cambridge and the impact of planned and unplanned events. By understanding the impact that COVID 19 has had on movement during the current lockdown, as measures are extended, changed or relaxed and likely future trends as things return to normal we will be able to adapt our transport planning and policies to respond to new behaviours.”

Cambridgeshire County Council has been sharing this data with their Traffic Manager’s team and in particular the Street Works team in order that they can make more informed decisions during this time on the rules they need to implement.

Peter Mildon, COO says:“Since the Covid-19 lockdown started, we have been working closely with all of our clients to help analyse the data we are providing them. This data source has formed a critical part in understanding the effectiveness of various lockdown measures as they have been brought in, but will be even more critical in providing quick feedback when the lockdown begins to be relaxed to ensure that the reduction in Social Distancing does not happen too quickly. This is a new use case for our data, but it really goes to show the power of having reliable, quality multi-modal data at your fingertips.”

Vehicular flows in Cambridge

The below example graphs show the 2-way traffic flow at each sensor location for the last 5 Tuesdays.

Results speak for themselves – there has been over a 50% drop in traffic movement at each location when compared to their usual flow.

Cambridge Road – Data of every Tuesday from the 25/02/2020 to the 25/03/2020 – sum of total vehicles by time of day.


Newmarket Road – Data of every Tuesday from the 25/02/2020 to the 25/03/2020 – sum of total vehicles by time of day.

The graph below shows the comparison for the total traffic flow count across all sensors for every weekday last week, clearly demonstrating that flow began to reduce and then tail off as of Wednesday 25th March.

Traffic Flow counts across 9 sensors on key routes in Cambridge from 09/03/2020 to the 01/04/2020.
Traffic flow started to decrease from the 16/03/2020 with another drop when the UK was put in lockdown on the 23/03/2020.

Total Transport Flows (sum of vehicles) for Cambridge from the 16/03/2020 to the 05/04/2020
General trend is a massive decrease of the traffic flow


Car traffic flow decreased from 72%.
Cyclists decreased oby 55% before Friday 3-04-20 before increasing again by 50% on the weekend

Bus traffic decrease of almost 50%.


If you would like to discuss a COVID-19 data project in your town or city, please email or visit our website for more info

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