We were recently stuck in traffic behind a big rig spewing noxious exhaust while out bicycling. This provoked us to think about how the health benefits of cycling can be negated by pollution. While we prefer mountain biking out in the wilderness with no cars around, coexisting on roads with vehicles is a reality most of us have to endure.
It is interesting that several articles discuss some health issues with cyclists who commute in big cities. Some cyclists wear face masks while cycling in the city. Pollution from diesel engines in particular are worrisome. Respiratory problems can arise and other adverse health effects may ensue.
As we move into the future, there should be more vehicles emitting less pollution. Hybrid technology, electric vehicles, low sulpher fuels, and other advancements will help reduce pollution levels.
Ways to minimize the risk
- Avoid busy streets to minimize the number of vehicles you encounter. You may end up riding a longer distance, but your health will benefit.
- Keep away from buses and trucks.
- Wear a mask if you have to bike in congested areas
- Try to ride during non-peak hours
- Reduce bike commuting to only a couple of days a week
Lots of us love biking and are trying to help our health and the environment by avoiding driving. With a couple strategies, we can help minimize potential health risks that accompany biking with vehicles that produce toxic emissions.
Vehicle exhaust and brain damage
Some recent studies have shown that vehicle traffic fumes affect the brain. Emissions from cars and trucks can injure parts of the brain and affect learning and memory. Breathing vehicle fumes for just 30 minutes can affect the brain, a recent study from the Netherlands showed. Children in areas with high levels of vehicle emissions score more poorly on tests and were more prone to have mental health problems.
Recycling bicycle tires is not something that has been covered much. The various recycling sites I checked had no information including Earth911. We found that our local Costco would take bike tires to recycle. You should also try your local bicycle and tire stores and ask them. Specialized had a tire recycling program but discontinued it. This area needs to be addressed by the big bike tire companies pushing such an eco friendly transportation means.
Recycling Bike Tires and tubes
Kenda has a list of companies that recycle bike tubes.
Try to buy more durable bike tires. Racing oriented tires wear out fastest. We have had good luck with Kenda bike tires.
Flat tire? Be sure to try to patch your bicycle tube instead of just replacing it with a new bicycle tube.
If you cycle in a big city, try to avoid busy streets has exposure to air pollutants in heavy traffic can cause heart health risks.