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.
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.
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.