Impact of bicycle route type on exposure to traffic-related air pollution

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Aug 15;490:37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.04.111. Epub 2014 May 21.


Cyclists are exposed to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) during their commutes due to their proximity to vehicular traffic. Two of the main components of TRAP are black carbon (BC) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which have both been causally associated with increased mortality. To assess the impact of cyclists' exposure to TRAP, a battery-powered mobile monitoring station was designed to sample air pollutants along five bike routes in Boston, Massachusetts. The bike routes were categorized into three types: bike paths, which are separated from vehicle traffic; bike lanes, which are adjacent to traffic; and designated bike lanes, which are shared traffic lanes for buses and cyclists. Bike lanes were found to have significantly higher concentrations of BC and NO2 than bike paths in both adjusted and unadjusted generalized linear models. Higher concentrations were observed in designated bike lanes than bike paths; however, this association was only significant for NO2. After adjusting for traffic density, background concentration, and proximity to intersections, bike lanes were found to have concentrations of BC and NO2 that were approximately 33% higher than bike paths. Distance from the road, vegetation barriers, and reduced intersection density appear to influence these variations. These findings suggest that cyclists can reduce their exposure to TRAP during their commute by using bike paths preferentially over bike lanes regardless of the potential increase of traffic near these routes.

Keywords: Bicycle route type; Exposure assessment; Mobile monitoring; Traffic-related air pollution (TRAP); Vegetation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions