A recent study proposes “sweet spot” speeds for people walking or cycling on urban roads. For people 20-60 years old traveling on flat urban roads, 3 mph for walking and 8-9 mph for cycling are the optimal speeds to minimize inhalation of air pollution associated with traffic. Other studies have researched traffic-related air pollution, but this study is one of the first to define specific speeds for active travelers such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Should You Change the Way You Travel?
Does this mean we should meticulously monitor our speed everywhere we go? Or worse, avoid traveling by foot or bike altogether? No, definitely not. The good news? Most people already travel close to these speeds. However, exceeding these limits by 6 mph can more than double your exposure to air pollution.
Now there are a number of caveats to these results, most notably the proximity to polluting sources. Travel through high-traffic areas will undoubtedly mean higher levels of pollution compared to a backcountry road. Moreover, the authors are still working on accounting for ground-level wind and the effects of travel dynamics like stops and accelerations.
What Needs to Change?
According to a 2014 U.S. Census report, the number of bicycle commuters increased by 60% from 2000 to 2012-the largest increase compared to any other mode of travel. People clearly enjoy having alternative transportation options, so we have to ask ourselves: should we be curtailing or refraining from activities as a means of dealing with air pollution? Or should we be cleaning up our air and getting rid of sources of pollution that hinder our transportation choices? By supporting ICL, you’re choosing the latter, and for that I thank you. I don’t know about you, but I want to travel as far and as fast as I can without having to worry about detrimental health effects.