May Visualisation: Before and During the COVID19 lock down road speed comparison [GIFS]

May Visualisation: Before and During the COVID19 lock down road speed comparison [GIFS]

May VisualisationBefore and During the COVID19 lock down road speed comparison [GIFS]


Lockdown brought about many changes around the UK, one of which being the impact on our roads and the knock-on effect on the environment. Last week, we wrote blog about the change in road speeds and the impact on accessibility to testing centers. As part of our visualisation series, for this month we are looking at this in a broader context.

In the previous blog it was noted the increase in roads speeds due to the lockdown restrictions leading to fewer cars on the road, meaning less congestion and, unfortunately, in some cases – more speeding.

For this visualisation we selected 5 of the busiest and most congested roads in the UK. We created two images to compare the roads speeds and transformed these into rolling GIFS (or GIFs if that’s how you pronounce it).

After processing the TM speed data in our Highways Analyst tool, selecting the week commencing March 9th for pre lock-down and the week of 23rd March 2020 for post lockdown, TRACC was used to attached this to the ITN road network which was later exported out to QGIS. The road was selected in QGIS where the colours and ranges could then be customised.

From QGIS we exported 2 JPEGs per road (Pre and During Lockdown), which were then used to create the GIFs. 

Firstly, we have A657 in Leeds and A34 in Birmingham, both of which were similarly impacted by the lockdown. The colouring on the “pre-lockdown” indicates a fair amount of congestion, the red showing that cars were moving at averages of between 10-20 mph when the road speed allowed up to 60-70mph. During lockdown we see most of the road has increased in speed, mostly a 10-20mph uplift but in some sections up to 30mph change. 



Moving onto London and the A406, compared to the previous two is much more congested, with less orange indicating cars moving between 20-30mph and a larger percentage of the road being purple meaning more vehicles moving in the up to 10mph range. During lockdown, we can see the heavily congested parts of the A406 have seen the most significant increase with cars now sitting in the 20-40mph ranges.



In Bristol we looked at the A4, which before lockdown had a wide range in road speed all the way from 0-60mph in the length of the road. Overall, it’s shown a small increase moving the slower part of the road into the next colour range, apart from the fastest section of the road which remain unchanged.


The final GIF is our wild card option showcasing two roads in one, more affectionately named – Spaghetti Junction. This GIF showcases the widest ranges of speeds, the overarching change is a dramatic increase in speeds that range between 20-30mph more. Spaghetti Junction even boasts its own colour range of 60-70mph (blue) speeds that weren’t present in the previous examples. There are still sections of purple located near the junctions where cars are typically expected to slow down.

Obviously, the roads are much morenjoyable without traffic jams and congestion however this does have a realworld impact, not only on the human experience but also the environment. Surface transport emissions declined by a third during lockdown. This trend has been experienced worldwide with less pollution in city centers and more animals reclaiming spaces.



Keziah is the Digital Marketing Executive at Basemap Ltd. She has almost 2 years experience in the digital realm after graduating from the University of Plymouth with a BA in Illustration and a MA in Publishing.