Cycling in one of the most polluted cities in the world: Exposure to noise and air pollution and potential adverse health impacts in Delhi

Int J Health Geogr. 2021 Apr 30;20(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s12942-021-00272-2.


Background: In India, many cities struggle with extreme levels of air pollution and noise. Delhi, in particular, has the notorious reputation of being one of the most polluted cities in the world. Cyclists constitute a particularly exposed population, since they cycle among motor vehicles without any protection. This paper modeled the cyclists' exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and noise in Delhi, India.

Methods: Using primary data collected on 1,229 kms of roads in Delhi, Generalized Additive Mixed Models with Auto-Regressive terms (GAMMAR) are constructed for noise exposure, NO2 exposure and NO2 inhalation doses.

Results: Results show that cyclists are exposed to 47 µg/m3 of NO2 and 3.3 dB(A) more when cycling on a primary road than on a residential street. Using WHO guideline values for noise and air pollution, we assessed how many minutes of inhaling doses and noise doses become potentially harmful to cyclists' health in Delhi. Such thresholds are quickly exceeded: after cycling one hour in an area with moderate predicted values of noise and air pollution, the noise dose and inhaled dose of NO2 will reach 212% and 403 µg on residential streets, and 459% and 482 µg on primary roads, respectively.

Conclusion: Policy makers should take these results into account to minimize cyclists' exposure, especially for the most deprived people.

Keywords: Air pollution; Cycling; Delhi; Exposure; Inhalation dose; Noise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Cities
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Nitrogen Dioxide