Traffic: Year-on-year volumes down over 50% last month

Road users urged to be vigilant, as car journeys up on previous Level 5 lockdowns

Traffic on Dublin roads last month was down 51.4% on January 2020. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

New data has found that traffic levels dropped by over 50 per cent in January compared with the same month last year, as gardaí and the Road Safety Authority urged road users to be vigilant.

The latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows the number of private vehicles on Dublin roads last month were down 51.4 per cent on January 2020 levels, while volumes on regional roads reduced by 53.6 per cent.

The statistics highlight the effect that restrictions imposed on December 27th are having on traffic levels.

The volume of cars journeying in Dublin plummeted by 40 per cent following the re-introduction of Level 5 restrictions on December 27th, while regional traffic dropped by 37 per cent that week.


The first week of January brought about a significant rise in the number of vehicles on Dublin roads, a trend that was not reflected in other regions.

There was also a creeping increase in the number of cars being driven in Dublin in the final two weeks of January, but year-on-year comparisons show traffic suppression remained consistent throughout the month.

However, the 53 per cent year-on-year reduction in car traffic during January 2021 is still not close to the drop seen during the first lockdown, when volumes were down as much as 78 per cent on 2019 levels.

Throughout that lockdown traffic volumes were never more than a third of what they were during the same period in 2019.

There was less movement than during the second bout of Level 5 restrictions, from November 5th to December 1st, when traffic volumes were down by between 29 and 43 per cent.

The figures also show just over one million journeys were made by train or bus each week in January. Prior to the pandemic this figure stood at more than 4.5 million per week in early March, while during the first lockdown this ranged from 466,000 to 598,000. A further 150,000 or so people took the Luas each week in January this year, an 83 per cent reduction in passengers on January 2020 levels.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council’s cycle counter data show significantly fewer people are cycling during traditional weekday peak hours.

In January 2021 just over 30,000 cycle journeys were recorded by the council’s five cycle trackers during peak hours, a 76 per cent reduction on the same period in 2020.

The volume of bicycle rides made during off-peak hours has remained close to or exceeded 2019 levels since last May.

January 2021 bucked this pandemic trend, with a 27 per cent reduction in off-peak cycle volumes compared to the same month in 2020.

Road safety

Meanwhile, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána launched a campaign on Tuesday aimed at reducing the number of fatalities on Irish roads.

In February 2020 eight drivers, six pedestrians, four passengers and one motorcyclist died following road incidents.

CEO of the RSA, Sam Waide, said: “Despite February being the shortest month of the year, February 2020 was the most dangerous and tragic on our roads, with 19 people killed.

“Whilst February this year may experience different traffic volumes compared to last year, that does not mean there is any less need to be mindful of the dangers whilst out driving, cycling or walking. We don’t want a repeat of the tragedy that we saw last year so, drivers slow down and watch out for vulnerable road users, and for pedestrians and cyclists, wear high visibility clothing, day or night.”

Paula Hilman, assistant commissioner with An Garda Síochána said: “In February 2020, 19 people died on our roads, and to avoid a repeat of this tragic loss of life, we all need to take greater responsibility for our actions.

“I am appealing to all drivers to slow down, expect the unexpected and be mindful of vulnerable road users, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Pedestrians and cyclists can ensure their safety too, by carrying a torch and wearing high-visibility clothing so that they are visible to others.

“While travel is limited by current Covid restrictions, it is critical that we remain vigilant on the roads, with more people walking and cycling on the road networks.

The RSA highlighted that collision patterns have changed, due to the pandemic. High-risk periods to use roads now tend to be Monday-Wednesday, and Saturday, between 12pm, and 8pm.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times