Separated Bike Lanes keep Cyclists Safer in More Ways than One!

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A current research project has shown that cyclists on separated bike lanes are breathing a better quality of air than those pedaling on traditional roadside bike lanes.

No big surprise to learn that this fearless cyclist on the old Hornby Street (before there was a separate bike route) was breathing in tons of pollutants

The researchers measured the ultrafine particulate matter that is spewed out by motorized vehicles. They parked a car on the median dividing a separated bike lane from the cars, and measured exposure to the offending particulate matter on both sides. Effectively, they were comparing air quality in two zones that were separated by a mere few feet.

Biking in Vancouver in the Fall
Biking on Hornby today, with the separate bike lane – what a wonderful world! No more danger, and far less fumes!

Amazingly, they found a significant statistical difference between the two zones. Hard to believe that a few feet could make a difference, but the findings were pretty unequivocal: air quality is better in separated bike lanes than in traditional roadside bike lanes. Also, the difference was even more pronounced when traffic volume was high. So the more pollution there was, the greater the benefit that was provided to cyclists by separated bike lanes. (And let’s not forget that pedestrians are even further away from the cars, so they are also being protected by the separated bike lanes.)

Cyclists are already taking a load off the health care system by keeping themselves healthier than non-exercisers. Turns out separated bike lanes will increase this benefit, not only by reducing injuries from cars, but also by reducing the amount of pollutants cyclists breathe in.

The message is clear: use separated bike lanes whenever possible to protect your health. Better yet, support Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver in their drive to create more separated bike lanes (or Mayor Watson if you happen to be in Ottawa).

For more details, see this great blog post.

Thanks: My thanks to Janine for providing this link.



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  1. Janine says

    Glad you found it interesting. I guess it is sort of obvious, but it’s nice to have research backing it up!

  2. Brent says

    After experiencing the cycling infrastructure changes of the past few years, Vision Canada sounds like a pretty good idea.