Local Traffic Counts Down While Cyclist and Pedestrian Volumes Soar

The Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council recently presented local traffic data from our transportation system during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While their focus is motorized traffic on local interstates and expressways, the data also included a small sample of bicycle and pedestrian counts from Tonawanda, NY. 

Based on recently-installed Miovision cameras in Tonawanda, NY, since early March, biking has increased 3000%, and pedestrian activity has increased more than 500% (the calculation did include a seasonal effect and used data from January to February to establish a baseline). Further, the cameras continue to capture high levels of pedestrian and bicycle activity despite vehicular traffic beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. 

Additionally, interstate and expressway data from March 2 to May 1, 2020, shows, in comparison to the same period in 2018 and 2019: 

  • Traffic congestion dropped 95%
  • Crashes dropped 45%
  • Speeds increased by 3.7%
  • Commute times reduced by 13.4%

Data are in line with national trends: at the peak of lockdowns (early to mid-April), passenger vehicle volumes in the United States and Europe fell by about half, resulting in stark decreases in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. 

While it’s thrilling to see increases in biking and decreases in motor vehicle traffic, we wonder what the post-pandemic effects wil be. What lessons will we learn from the sharp decreases in passenger vehicles and subsequent improvements in air quality and decreases in greenhouse gas emissions (more than a third of GHGs in New York state come from transportation)? Is it possible to continue to be less reliant on our motor vehicles? Will the biking boom last?