More pollution in a car than on a bicycle!
Monday, 05 May 2008, Written by Trouni   
If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you probably already sat in a taxi during a smoggy day, watching people through the window riding their bicycle in the heavy pollution. Feeling safer in your cab, you pitied them since the air outside was so polluted.
Actually... you were more exposed to pollution than them!

A study shows that the mean concentration of fine particles inside a car could reach levels up to 25 times the WHO air quality guidelines. The main source of in-car air pollution is the vehicle in front of you since air intakes and exhaust pipes are located at the same level.

Even if driving with the windows closed and recirculating air settings could modestly reduce particle pollution exposure, it does not reduce most gaseous pollutants at all.

In terms of solutions, bicycle is definitely a better transportation mean in cities, since when you sit in a car:
Extremely high in-car pollution while in the traffic. Source: Le Journal du Dimanche
  • you are in the middle of the car traffic and so the air you breathe is extremely polluted,
  • you stay longer in the traffic during rush hours,
  • even if it might not have a direct impact on your health, pollution is generated by the car.
While riding a bike, you are higher than the traffic, you are not riding directly inside it, you are not stuck during rush hours (so you reduce your time of exposure), and you don't generate pollution. Even though efforts can be harmful for your lungs, you are still less exposed to pollution than in a car.

According to ICTA's "In-car pollution" report: concentrations of benzene reach levels inside automobiles nearly two-and-a half times higher than in the air breathed by bicyclists.

A car doesn't protect you from pollution, it exposes you even more!

Sources: Le Journal du Dimanche (French), Xinhua, ICTA In-car pollution report
Dawn wrote :
Wow, thanks for the info. I always assumed "in-car" air was safer...
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