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How fast should we cycle of walk to avoid city pollution?

We choose walking or cycling instead of driving in order to have a healthy exercise and to avoid contributing to air pollution. However, in these cases we are forced to breathe air, which is polluted by traffic and industrial objects. Now scientists from The University of British Columbia have the optimal walking and cycling speeds to reduce air pollution inhalation.

Cycling is a healthy exercise, although we should maintain particular speeds in order to get the maximum benefit without the drawbacks. Image credit: Danny via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Cycling is a healthy exercise, although we should maintain particular speeds in order to get the maximum benefit without the drawbacks. Image credit: Danny via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

The theory is simple – the most effort you put in moving, the harder your breathing is. And so your healthy exercise becomes mostly irrelevant as you are breathing extremely polluted air. Scientists say that it all depends on speed. Cyclists in the city should ride at 12-20 kilometres per hour and pedestrians should walk at the speeds of two to six kilometres per hour. Although in theory this calculation looks reasonably simple, scientists had to consider another variable. Cyclists and pedestrians should be in polluted air as shortly as possible, which means they should not move too slow either.

Of course, people are different and are able to tolerate different doses of pollution. Scientists say that female cyclists under age of 20 should ride at the speed of 12.5 kilometres per hour, males in the same age group – 13.3 kilometres per hour. Older cyclists at the age of 20-60 should keep their speeds at 13-15 km/h. The ideal speed of walking mostly depends on person’s age rather than gender. Both male and female pedestrians should keep their speed at around three kilometres per hour. Older people should actually walk quicker, at around four kilometres per hour, to stay the least amount of time possible in the polluted area.

Of course, these numbers are just estimates – the actual situation depends heavily on the actual road conditions and the amount of pollution in the air. Scientists call these ideal traveling speeds the minimum-dose speeds or MDS. Alex Bigazzi, author of the study, said: “If you move at much faster speeds than the MDS—say, cycling around 10 kilometres faster than the optimal range—your inhalation of air pollution is significantly higher. The good news is, the MDS numbers align pretty closely with how fast most people actually travel”.

Scientists are going to continue their research. Now they will check if their calculations are matching up with the real world results. For that they will have to conduct some experiments and we will have to wait for their results.

Source: ubc.ca