Commuting via bike may be worse for commuters than the public thought. Researchers at Colorado State University have found through a recent study they conducted that what cyclists are gaining by riding their bikes around Fort Collins, they may be losing by breathing in toxic gases from cars.
Dr. Nick Good of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his group of researchers have found that bikers breathe in an extensive amount of black carbon when they are riding on busy roads during the day time. He said that riding on an alternative route that avoids main road lines may reduce commuter’s exposure to pollution up to 30 percent. However, Good said that with this comes an alternative problem.
“By taking these other routes, we’ve found it is still very hard to limit your exposure because you’re taking another longer route and you end up just being exposed longer even if the levels are a little bit lower,” Good said.
CSU student Lex Lubinski rides his bike through campus
Alli Rowley, second year Wildlife Biology student, said that she feels sick frequently after she rides her bike down Shields Street on her way to school.
“I live on Center Avenue so sometimes I will ride my bike to school on Shields and it definitely makes me feel a little nauseous riding behind all of those cars,” she said.
Good and his team have found that there really isn’t a safe level of these pollutants for bikers to breathe in while riding on the roads. He also finds that many people don’t see the correlation between breathing toxic air and the current rise in population illness.
However, other students around campus aren’t as concerned about riding bikes with cars. When asked, Matt Hayes, member of the CSU cycling team, said that he has never noticed a difference in how he feels riding his bike.
“I ride about 50 miles a day and I usually can’t tell if the car exhaust is effecting me or not because I am always so tired anyways,” Hayes said. “Plus, I used to ride in downtown Houston before I came here (CSU) so it has to be better than there either way.
Even with the research him and his team have done, Good thinks that even though there are very few things that people can do about pollution levels, that biking is still a good habit to adopt. The key for commuting students he said, is being smart about where they bike.
“For a student, it’s about trying to find the direct route that’s not going to take you the long way ’round, but kind of (avoiding) those major roads where the pollution level is the highest,” he said.