Street intersection

Pandemic drives down Vancouver vehicle traffic and collisions in 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the City’s top priority has been the health and safety of our residents and helping businesses adapt to the new reality of living and operating through a pandemic.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart

March 10 2021 –

Over the past year, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the daily travel routines of Vancouver residents based on data collected by our Transportation Division.

Notably, motor vehicle volumes dropped to their lowest levels in the first week of April 2020 to 50%-60% of their typical, pre-pandemic levels. They have gradually recovered to 85%-90% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Today, overall motor vehicle and cycling travel volumes still remain lower than before the pandemic, and meanwhile cycling on our recreational routes continues to be on the rise. At the same time, we've seen improved road safety, including a 55% decrease in traffic-related Emergency Room visits and a 39% decrease in fatalities over previous years. When people travel by active transportation and transit, our roads are more efficient and safer, and more space can be used for people rather than vehicles.

In May 2020, City Council directed staff to reallocate road space to support businesses and create places for people to gather and to walk, roll, and bike. This gave people more space for recreational walking, running, rolling, and cycling, which was enabled in part by lower vehicle demand. 

Since spring/summer 2020, we have:

  • Repurposed space on Beach Avenue for more walking, rolling, and cycling
  • Designated 40 km of Slow Streets
  • Expanded public space for walking, cycling, and gathering 
  • Allowed 400 temporary patios across the city last year 

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the City’s top priority has been the health and safety of our residents and helping businesses adapt to the new reality of living and operating through a pandemic,” says Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “I am pleased that my Council colleagues have supported these road reallocation initiatives that create more space for people to safely carry out their daily tasks while supporting a safe recovery process for businesses.”

2020 transportation trends

Safety

  • Vancouver General Hospital’s emergency department saw a 55% decrease in visits between January and October 2020 versus its five-year average for the same period.  As data continues to be collected and provided, staff will monitor this positive trend of decreasing traffic-related ER visits.
  • Eight traffic-related fatalities were reported in 2020 based on data from the Vancouver Police Department, a 39% decrease over the previous five-year average.

Pedestrian volumes

  • Automated pedestrian counters, which are only located along Davie, Nelson, and Robson streets in the West End, saw a 60% decline during the start of the pandemic in late March 2020 and early April 2020. Volumes have recovered slowly, but remain significantly lower than the previous year.

Cycling volumes

  • Cycling volumes on recreational routes generally increased in 2020 compared to 2019, while commuter route volumes generally decreased.
  • Of particular note are the interim upgrades to Beach Avenue, which saw the highest bicycle volume recorded in the City with an average of 10,000 users a day in the summer of 2020.

Motor vehicle volumes

  • Motor vehicle volumes dropped to their lowest levels in the first week of April to 50%-60% of their typical, pre-pandemic levels. They have gradually recovered to 85%-90% of pre-pandemic levels.

Next steps

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, staff will monitor transportation trends to ensure our transportation network continues to be efficient, healthy, and safe.