Lisbon like the north, Stockholm like the south
Both capital cities have opted for opposing mobility models—with and without restrictions. However the epidemic's impact on their borders has not been in line with their neighbours, but rather, like those at the other side of the European continent.
Movement in Lisbon has plummeted over recent months due to the health crisis. In May, with the easing of restrictions fully underway, the circulation of just one in five pedestrians and vehicles was recorded compared to normal rates for the Portuguese capital at this time of year. This reflects a similar reduction to neighbouring countries’ capital cities, such as Madrid, Rome or Paris, although the impact of Covid-19 in Portugal has been much lighter than in Spain, Italy or France.
This article uses data from the application created by Civio for EDJNET which monitors European capitals along three parameters: pedestrian, road and air traffic, comparing their daily levels with their usual pre-crisis levels. The methodology can be found at the end of this article and in the actual tool.
On the flip side, take Stockholm. Sweden has avoided implementing harsh lockdown measures. It is also the only country in Europe that hasn’t ordered the closure of any schools nor—in this case together with Bulgaria—workplaces, although it has issued certain recommendations on limiting these, according to Our World in Data. Since March, movement in Lisbon and Stockholm has been similar to that in their regions: the southern capitals have come to a standstill, the northern ones haven’t. Yet Portugal and Sweden have diverged from their regional trends in terms of the number of deaths per million inhabitants.
Lower circulation than the neighbours most affected by the pandemic
Throughout the entire month of May, peak road traffic in Lisbon was some 28.4%, recorded on Wednesday 13. Back then, Portugal had still not reopened schools, which would take place for some students the following week, although it had allowed—albeit with restrictions—the opening of certain businesses such as hairdressers, shops or restaurants, among others. Traffic in the capital of the neighbouring country, Madrid, was higher despite the much greater impact of the pandemic. The traffic peak in Madrid was recorded on May 17, with 36.8%. While it’s true that on that date some of the lockdown restrictions were eased, the first step in lifting lockdown—so-called Phase 1—in the Spanish capital wouldn’t start until eight days later, on Monday 25. This reflects the high level of movement, despite greater restrictions, when compared to the Iberian peninsula’s other capital city.
Meanwhile, in Rome and Paris, starting from May 11, when both lifted their restrictions on workplaces, road traffic was much greater than in Lisbon and rarely dipped below 30%, the monthly maximum. In terms of pedestrians in these four countries, the lowest levels were recorded in Lisbon and Rome, at around 30%, followed by Madrid and Paris, where in recent days figures have reached half of normal levels of circulation.
If Portugal is the exception in the south, Stockholm is likewise in the north
In contrast, the circulation of private transport in Stockholm matched similar levels to those in the south of Europe on only two occasions: May 1 and 21, both national holidays in Sweden. The norm in the Swedish capital has been traffic levels of around 70%, going so far as to reach 118.9% on May 31.
Furthermore, traffic levels in Stockholm have exceeded those of other capital cities in the region such as Copenhagen, Denmark—apart from a couple of weekends—or Helsinki, Finland. And despite the number of pedestrians being lower, this has been in line with neighbouring countries.
While in terms of movement Sweden has behaved like a northern country, with fewer restrictions than its neighbours, in terms of infections and more specifically deaths per million inhabitants, it is similar to the south.
|EU/EEA and the UK||Deaths notified per million inhabitants|
Europe gets back to business
Despite the differences between the north and south in terms of movement, since the early stages of the health crisis, one international holiday had almost the entire continent in agreement. On May 1—May Day—just one in four vehicles and one in two pedestrians were in circulation across Europe. But that was the only exception. While by the middle of April just a third of the people who usually circulate in European capitals were doing so, from May the number of pedestrians has increased, up to over 60% in the last week. A similar figure can be seen for private transport, which until May 9—following VE Day, another holiday for half of Europe—had remained at less than half the normal traffic levels.
Little by little, Europe is getting back to business, although there are still differences in the speed of recovery between the north and south. And the data on movement is proof of this. In the week of May 11, a large part of European states—with the exception of Spain and Ireland—partially reopened schools and workplaces, according to Our World in Data. Since that date, some capitals such as Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen and Berlin have seen traffic levels of over 80%. Others, such as Vilnius, Ljubljana, Tallin, Bratislava or Helsinki have reached the same levels, but in numbers of pedestrians. However, while mobility on land is recovering, albeit at a slower pace in the countries most affected by the pandemic, air traffic—at around 15%—is yet to take off.
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Katherine Spence, Eva Belmonte, Ángela Bernardo and María Álvarez del Vayo have contributed to this article.
This article is part of the European Data Journalism Network and is published under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
This article uses data from the application created by Civio for EDJNET to monitor three parameters daily versus to the usual pre-crises: pedestrian traffic, road traffic and flights. The information focuses only on European capitals. We use three sources:
Airports. We use daily traffic data provided by EuroControl, broken down by airport. EuroControl provides the number of flights at the airport, as well as the number of flights a year earlier, on a comparable day (i.e. Monday 2020-02-03 compares to Monday 2019-02-04). These two numbers allow us to calculate a daily percentage of fall with respect to the pre-crisis level.
Pedestrians traffic data is drawn from Apple’s mobility reports, which reflect the use of address searches on Apple Maps. The reports consist of a percentage of daily variation from the usual baseline established by Apple, so we do not perform any additional processing. We use the data at the city level for the most important European capitals or, if they are not available, the data at the national level, indicating it in the graph.
Road traffic data comes from the TomTom Traffic Index, which compares the time it takes for drivers to reach their destination on a given day against a congestion-free scenario taken as the baseline. Daily, we download the real-time data provided by TomTom with hourly granularity on the current day’s congestion and the average congestion in 2019. (As an example, this is the Brussels page.) The daily indicator shown on the map is the decrease in the sum of the hourly values of the current congestion, versus the sum of hourly values of the 2019 average congestion.
The download and data processing has been done in Ruby. The visualization has been developed with Adobe Illustrator and D3.js. Both the European map and city graphics are embeddable.