Breathe easy

Something I’ve been meaning to blog about for… oh, over a month. At the Climate Change forum last month, a question was asked about the car pollution impacts on cyclists. Elliot Fishman from the Cycling Promotion Fund (and who looks uncannily like my sister’s husband) replied that because cyclists are higher up, they don’t get that much car exhaust. In fact more goes to other car drivers.

As this New Zealand article says:

ETA (1997) reviewed over sixty studies of pollution exposure by different transport modes, and found that cars offer little or no protection against the pollutants generated by traffic. Most of the studies indicated that motor vehicle occupants face pollution levels inside a car two to three times higher than those experienced by pedestrians and cyclists, with larger public transport vehicles somewhere in between.

Partly it’s because the emissions stay close to where they come out of the exhaust, only to be brought into following vehicles. For myself, when driving in traffic, I often set the ventilation to recirculate — preferably before catching up to cars in front — and if needed I open the window a snadge to get some (hopefully) less-polluted air into the car.

Evidently a better way to avoid the foul air is not to be in a car at all.

On a related topic there was a comment on Top Gear a while ago joking about hybrid cars, along the lines of that you can stop your car engine when the car is stationary. Actually I do that at places like level crossings, where I know I’m going to have to wait a while — especially if I can hear a slow freight train coming.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Breathe easy”

I’ve often wondered about the faceful of exhaust cyclists might get.

Car park space at train stations – there was quite a number at Officer yesterday for those on the Pakenham line.

Turning engine off – interesting idea.

I would have thought that you actually putting additional load on the engine and starter and the rest of the stuff, wearing it off.

A study in Sydney found basically the same thing. Although the precise order varied by specific pollutant, in general the order of who copped the most pollution to who copped the least was:
1. Car occupants
2. Bus occupants
3. Cyclists
4. Pedestrians
5. Train occupants

Research in US concluded that stop/starting your car engine frequently does not adversely impact the life of the starter motor etc. And there is a cut-off point (something like a minute) beyond which its environmentally (and financially?) better to switch of the engine, rather than continue to idle. There was a Japanses invention to allow cars to auto stop and start the engine rather than idle it. Touching the throttle started the engine.

I can ‘smell’ an old car in front of me when driving – the fumes are much stronger and that’s usually when I flick on the recirculate button. Better to turn off the AC tho, if possible, can save around 10% of fuel consumption . . .

Comments are closed.