Cyclists Exposed To Less Air Pollution Than Drivers and People in Buses, Study Finds
Good news is for the open-air bicyclist. A recent report informs us that bicyclists are the least affected or exposed to air pollution on daily commutes. More at risk are the people in cars and buses. It is disappointing, however, that pedestrians, who have such a light and peaceful footprint, are even more affected.
Dr. Ian Mudway, Lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at Kings College London, offers similar advice: “If policy isn’t going to separate traffic from us, we have to separate ourselves from the traffic — we can take alternative routes, that’s one solution. … You can reduce your exposures by 50% just by walking down the street away from the busy street.”
Early last summer ITS staff and students studied commuter exposure to fine particles using portable instruments (particle number counters) when commuting. “Week one saw simultaneous data collected travelling along the main road (Headingley Lane, A660) by four modes of transport, including bike, on foot, bus and in a specially instrumented electric van branded the ‘Smogmobile’ provided by Enviro Technology Services.”
The Guardian also quotes James Tate, who led the work:
“’On more congested routes, the cyclist would come out with the lowest inhaled dose,’” said James Tate, at the University of Leeds. Segregated cycle lanes would reduce cyclists’ exposure, even more, he said, with a distance of even a metre or two from traffic cutting particles by about a quarter. ‘Cycle lanes mean you can skip past traffic,’ he said. Other research shows the exercise benefits of cycling outweigh the harm of air pollution.”
So the trick is to choose those side streets, those out-of-the-way streets to avoid the pollution in busy areas. “Walkers have a decision to make, particularly on polluted days,” said Tate. “It may take a little longer but, if you have time, you can really cut down on your exposure by walking on a green route.”