Research carried out at the University of Leeds has found that during a 4km commute into the city centre, cyclists suffered the least exposure to air pollution.
The Guardian reports that researchers used portable pollution-measuring equipment to track rush-hour commutes into and out of Leeds city centre in June.
All commuters set off at the same time and the volume of pollution each person was exposed to was measured over the course of their respective journeys.
Cyclists were exposed to a total of 12m pollution particles, bus passengers to 19m, motorists to 20m and pedestrians to 55m – although this fell below the levels experienced by bus passengers and motorists when the pedestrian took an alternative ‘green route’.
At the heart of the findings was travel time. Despite breathing more rapidly, cyclists benefited from the shortest journey time – 11 minutes – which was around half that for bus passengers and motorists.
Great to share lessons from our #LeedsLivingLab #experiments that cyclists using on-road cycle lanes and Advanced Stop Lines can skip queues saving time & exposure to #airquality emissions. Cars & Buses can't => these modes often have a higher total exposure #aamg @ITSLeeds pic.twitter.com/irhxrwSGsm
— Dr James Tate (@drjamestate) December 13, 2018
Peak pollution for cyclists occurred when high buildings trapped toxic air.
“On more congested routes, the cyclist would come out with the lowest inhaled dose,” said James Tate, who led the work.
He added that segregated cycle lanes would further reduce cyclists’ exposure. Not only would a metre or two from traffic cut particles by about a quarter, but “cycle lanes mean you can skip past traffic.”
An oft-repeated claim in some quarters is that cycle lanes increase air pollution by causing congestion. Campaigners say there is no evidence for this.
In contrast, research published earlier this year found that children in London’s first ‘Mini Holland’ borough, Waltham Forest, will enjoy greater life expectancy due to the efforts to promote cycling and walking and to reduce car use, while a study from New Zealand has since shown that investment in facilities for cyclists and pedestrians leads to lower levels of car use and reduces carbon emissions.