Impact of Bicycle Lane Characteristics on Exposure of Bicyclists to Traffic-Related Particulate Matter

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


Bicycle commuters -- Exposure to air pollution, Motor vehicles -- Pollution, Bicycle lanes, Transportation planning


Bicycling as a mode of transportation is increasingly seen as a healthy alternative to motorized transportation modes. However, in congested urban areas, the health benefits of bicycling can be diminished by the negative health effects associated with inhalation of particulate matter. Particles of small size (ultrafine particles <0.1 μm) are the most harmful, even during short-duration exposure. Because vehicular exhaust is the major source of ultrafine particles, the impact of traffic levels and bicycle lane characteristics on exposure of bicyclists was studied. Ultrafine particle exposure concentrations were compared in two settings: (a) a traditional bicycle lane adjacent to the vehicular traffic lanes and (b) a cycle track design with a parking lane separating bicyclists from vehicular traffic lanes. Traffic measurements were made alongside air quality measurements. The cycle track design mitigated ultrafine particle exposure concentrations for cyclists. Results showed statistically significant differences in terms of exposure levels for the two bike facilities, as well as correlations between traffic levels and exposure level differences. Results also suggested that ultrafine particle levels and spatial distribution were sensitive to proximity to signalized intersections. Findings of this research indicated that, in high traffic areas, bicycle facility design had the potential to lower air pollution exposure levels of bicyclists.


Copyright, National Academy of Sciences. Posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board. None of this material may be presented to imply endorsement by TRB of a product, method, practice, or policy.

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