I think everyone was just hoping (or praying) that this COVID pandemic would be a flash in the pan and that we could just write off 2020 to bad luck and get back to our lives in 2021.
At face value we seemed to be on track for this, the vaccination program was going well and businesses were reopening as well as restrictions on social gathering being lifted. And although the virus has clearly not been eradicated there was an air of expectancy that we would have returned to normal life by now.
Looking at the traffic patterns in the UK it is clear that the vastly reduced mileage and trips per driver that was seen in 2020 (some 20-25% down on 2019) has now recovered to the extent that since May both the average distance of each trip and the number of trips per driver per month were back pretty much inline with the 2019 values and well above 2020.
A very similar pattern was also emerging in the USA with average mileage per trip having been back in line with 2019 from September 2020 although the monthly trips per driver still lag slightly behind the 219 levels.
However, even looking at this level of granularity hides an underlying feature … the patterns of driving have changed significantly and are nowhere near returning to Pre-Covid levels.
If you look at the relative numbers of trip starting in each hour of the day for each day of the week In the UK it is clear that the large proportion of trips starting around 7-8am and the 5pm rush hour (ie the commuting) died away virtually completely in the depth of the Covid pandemic and although in the UK there is some evidence that they are beginning to return it is clear that the morning commute, in particular, is still some 20% down compared to before the pandemic with more trips being undertaken at weekends.
The picture is even more extreme in the USA where the morning commute remains virtually unchanged from the depths of the covid lockdowns.
The big question is, of course, will this ever get back to similar patterns to 2019 or are we now living in a new normal of mobility where people continue to work from home where-ever possible and the morning rush-hour remains significantly reduced.
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