blog | 04.05.2021 | Nick Bailey

The easing of lockdown in Glasgow

The centres of Britain’s largest cities have been particularly badly hit by lockdown restrictions.

At the end of February, footfall in the centres of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow was down more than 80% on pre-lockdown levels, according to the Centre for Cities' 'High streets recovery tracker'. The numbers present in the evenings were down by more than 90%. The impact on the retail and hospitality sectors has been enormous.

On Monday 26th April, some of the lockdown restrictions were eased in Scotland. In particular, non-essential shops were allowed to re-open, while pubs and restaurants could offer food inside and alcohol outside. Similar changes had occurred in England two weeks earlier.

In Glasgow, we can get a near-real-time picture of the impact of these changes thanks to a unique partnership between the Urban Big Data Centre, Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. As explained in an earlier blog, UBDC is using spare capacity in the Council’s CCTV system to produce counts of the number of pedestrians present at a range of locations across the city. Images are captured on a half-hourly cycle and analysed within the Council’s secure facilities. All processing is done using open-source tools so could be easily replicated by other authorities.

The resulting data are made publicly available on a daily basis (see details below). Here, we use these data to examine average daily counts of the number of pedestrians during daytime (10am and 4pm) and evenings (6pm to 10pm). Figures for the most recent week (in green) are compared with those for the same days over the previous 16 weeks of lockdown (in grey).

City centre

In the city centre, we can see that daytime footfall in the week after restrictions eased was higher than all, or almost all, of the previous sixteen weeks. An initial rush on Monday was followed by a bit of a lull on Tuesday before footfall picked up again. By the end of the week, there is an even stronger sense of a return with Saturday particularly busy in most locations.

Charts showing daytime footfall at eight Glasgow city centre locations as explained in the text above.

There is a similar story with the evening economy. Looking at footfall between 6pm and 10pm, numbers are above average across the week but really improve the Friday and Saturday.

Charts showing evening footfall at eight Glasgow city centre locations as explained in the text above.

Other high street locations

We capture numbers at other high street locations across the city, and here we show four of them with footfall in the daytime and evenings. There is a more mixed picture here. Byres Road in the West end shows a clear increase in footfall, particularly in the evenings. For the other three, there is much less sense that numbers are recovering. Of course, the city centre is recovering from a particularly low base. It is dominated by “non-essential” shops, which have been required to remain closed. Other high streets have a greater mix, with more food retailers and cafes, which continued with takeaway sales, so the change has been less dramatic.

Charts showing daytime and evening footfall at four Glasgow city centre locations as explained in the text above.


One feature of the lockdown period has been the increased use of parks and opens spaces. With the opening of alternatives such as shops and cafes, we might expect to see a drop in the usages of these places. That appears to be the case in Glasgow, at least for two of the largest parks - Glasgow Green and Kelvingrove. The early days of easing were marked by a drop in temperatures compared to the previous week and that might be a factor here. But footfall is down on most of the previous sixteen weeks. People have other places they can be!

Charts showing footfall at six Glasgow city centre parks as explained in the text above.


Lastly, we can make a summary measure of the recovery – the percentage change for the last week compared with the average for the previous sixteen weeks. Doing this, the scale of the change in the city centre looks more impressive - a near-doubling in numbers both in the daytime and in the evenings. Numbers are also up in other high street locations albeit by less. A promising start.

Recovery index:
Location Daytime (% change)
Evening (% change)
City centre 91 84
Other centre 21 24
Parks -14 14
River/canal -12 3

Further information

More information on our work using CCTV to assess daily activity on city streets is available on the research project page. Current developments include enhancements to the capture of vehicles and cycling, as well as the development of video analysis to let us capture behaviours in more detail - for example, whether people spend time in certain places or just pass through.

The data from the CCTV analysis are available here as open data: They are made available under an Open Government Licence. The attribution is:

“Glasgow CCTV Automated Object Detection Counts, Glasgow City Council / Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow, 2020, copyright © Glasgow City Council 2020”

The code to reproduce this analysis is available on GitHub.

Project Team

The data examined here are the result of a project involving a team of people, including:

Nick Bailey

Nick Bailey is Director of the Centre. He is a Professor in Urban Studies, based in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

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