Pollutionwatch: how bike roads can reduce exposure to toxic air

Pop-up cycle lanes, wider pavements and traffic-free school streets are part of urgent UK government recommendations to allow physical distancing as the Covid-19 lockdown is eased.

But with a return to car transport too, it is important we minimise air pollution exposure. Studies have shown that exposure for cyclists can be reduced by increasing the distance between cycle lanes and traffic. So, an optimal design would be dedicated bike roads rather than lanes next to existing busy traffic. The same applies to traffic-free corridors for people walking. But how will we fit it all in?

When asked, people in 23 cities around the world systematically underestimated the space given to cars and overestimated space for walking and cycling. But the vast majority of urban street space is used for parking and traffic while pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed to the sides.

In Berlin, the 7% of road space for cycling moves 15% of people. Cars, each used for an average of 36 minutes each day, have 78% of space. In Copenhagen, 45% of journeys are made by bike in 16% of the space. Pre-Covid-19, walking took up a quarter of the space in the City of London but was more than half of journeys. This looks likely to change for the better.

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