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Cycling reduces emissions

Cycling reduces emissions

Cycling is an environmentally friendly means of transportation – no tailpipe emissions, no evaporative emissions, no emissions from diesel and petrol pumping or oil refining and zero carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases (including PM, O3 NO2, CO and SO2).

Cycling for short trips helps to reduce the significant source of ‘cold start’ vehicle emissions, which are caused when a car is first started and the effectiveness of a catalytic converter is limited. 

There are many hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and the key HAPs are: 

Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5): Particulates found in the air we breathe vary in size. PM affects more people than any other pollutant and its major components are sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust and water. Sources of PM come from burning fossil fuels, including diesel, amongst other industrial processes. The World Health Organisation (WHO - Fact Sheet 313) has found that mortality in cities with high levels of pollution exceeds that observed in relatively cleaner cities by 15-20%. In the EU this means the average life expectancy can be 8.6 months lower due to exposure.

Ozone (O3): Ozone at ground level is one of the major constituents of photochemical smog. It is formed by the reaction with sunlight of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) from vehicle and industry emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by vehicles, solvents and industry. It can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): Symptoms of bronchitis in asthmatic children increase in association with long-term exposure to NO2.

Carbon monoxide (CO): The most common sources of carbon monoxide are human activities, including the combustion of fossil fuels such as petrol for motor vehicles. CO reduces the amount of oxygen that body tissues receive, which is bad for the brain, heart and general health.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2): Is a colourless gas produced from the burning of sulphur-containing fossil fuels including diesel for motor vehicles. SO2 can cause respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, and irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

By reducing air pollution levels, through not travelling by car or public transport, cyclists are helping to reduce respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer. 

Top tips for cyclists to minimise the risk of exposure include: 

• Finding alternative routes away from high density commuter traffic and major public transport routes;
• Avoiding congested roads and utilising cycle paths and tracks;
• Finding routes that offer some shielding from air pollution (e.g. trees);
• When stopping at traffic lights or a major junction, move out in front of the stationary vehicle.
Cyclists are reducing their personal carbon emissions as well as emissions associated with their workplaces.

GlaxoSmithKline - a cyclist at GSK House save 88 tonnes of CO2 each year by cycling

Quorum - Tesco Bank doubled cycling from 2% in 2011 to 4% in 2015 saving 1.7 tonnes of CO2

Meadowhall – At Sheffield’s Shopping Centre the business case for travel planning is linked to British Land’s (site owner), targets for carbon neutral business practices without offset and increased costs. In total 67% of employees travel sustainably with 7% cycling

Transport for London – commissioned a trial to examine the take up and usage of electric-assist bicycles amongst London employers as part of the wider ‘Clean Air for London’ programme of air quality mitigation initiatives. The study focused on the role of e-bikes as an alternative to other modes of transport in Central London and their effectiveness in reducing NOx, PM10 and PM2.5 emissions. 

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