Analysis of pedestrian activity before and during COVID-19 lockdown, using webcam time-lapse from Cracow and machine learning

PeerJ. 2020 Oct 5:8:e10132. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10132. eCollection 2020.


At the turn of February and March 2020, COVID-19 pandemic reached Europe. Many countries, including Poland imposed lockdown as a method of securing social distance between potentially infected. Stay-at-home orders and movement control within public space not only affected the touristm industry, but also the everyday life of the inhabitants. The hourly time-lapse from four HD webcams in Cracow (Poland) are used in this study to estimate how pedestrian activity changed during COVID-19 lockdown. The collected data covers the period from 9 June 2016 to 19 April 2020 and comes from various urban zones. One zone is tourist, one is residential and two are mixed. In the first stage of the analysis, a state-of-the-art machine learning algorithm (YOLOv3) is used to detect people. Additionally, a non-standard application of the YOLO method is proposed, oriented to the images from HD webcams. This approach (YOLOtiled) is less prone to pedestrian detection errors with the only drawback being the longer computation time. Splitting the HD image into smaller tiles increases the number of detected pedestrians by over 50%. In the second stage, the analysis of pedestrian activity before and during the COVID-19 lockdown is conducted for hourly, daily and weekly averages. Depending on the type of urban zone, the number of pedestrians decreased from 33% in residential zones to 85% in tourist zones located in the Old Town. The presented method allows for more efficient detection and counting of pedestrians from HD time-lapse webcam images compared to SSD, YOLOv3 and Faster R-CNN. The result of the research is a published database with the detected number of pedestrians from the four-year observation period for four locations in Cracow.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cracow; Data science; Database; OpenCV; Pedestrian counting; People detection; Webcam; YOLOv3.

Grants and funding

The author received no funding for this work.