Analysis
22 Jul 20

Has COVID-19 rekindled Europe's love affair with the car?

Countries across Europe are relying on road transport more than ever in the aftermath of coronavirus lockdowns. As economies re-open, data from traffic analyst INRIX has revealed how the number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) now exceeds pre-pandemic levels in 16 of 19 European countries.

Belgium, Ireland and the UK were the only three to see their traffic volumes lag behind pre-COVID levels.

At the height of the crisis, VMT in Spain had fallen to just 12% of normal levels, but in July it had recovered to 116%.

The widespread rise in traffic volumes will cause alarm among politicians and transport planners who had hoped that the pandemic would lead to lower emission, more sustainable travel, particularly walking and cycling. 

INRIX delivers anonymised vehicle speed and location reporting, based on hundreds of millions of trips per day by private drivers, fleets and trucks in Europe and the US. The data helps fleet operators, cities and road authorities understand exactly what is happening on the roads.

Social distancing and fears over the spread of the virus in the confined spaces of public transport buses and trains appear to be leading more people to use cars for travel.

European Countries Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) Growth

Country

Lowest VMT Date

Lowest VMT

Current Travel (8/7/2020)

Austria 

23/3/2020

21%

108%

Belgium

30/3/2020

25%

95%

Czech Republic

30/3/2020

40%

128%

Denmark

30/3/2020

44%

131%

Finland

30/3/2020

35%

130%

France

30/3/2020

22%

144%

Germany

30/3/2020

40%

104%

Ireland

6/4/2020

27%

89%

Italy

23/3/2020

24%

111%

Luxembourg

30/3/2020

25%

109%

Norway

23/3/2020

53%

123%

Poland

13/4/2020

35%

126%

Portugal

6/4/2020

22%

101%

Russia

30/3/2020

62%

122%

Slovakia

6/4/2020

33%

137%

Spain

6/4/2020

12%

116%

Sweden

30/3/2020

56%

113%

Switzerland

23/3/2020

43%

102%

UK

6/4/2020

26%

83%

Source: INRIX

Photo: Shutterstock

Authored by: Jonathan Manning
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