Bicycle Pollution

The WSJ has an amusing story today about a battle over bike paths in San Francisco. The fundamental issue is whether bicycles contribute to air pollution. What? The argument in favor of viewing bicycles as polluters is this: the presence of bicycles in traffic causes motor vehicles to reduce speed and spend more time idling, thereby creating more pollution. The bicycles, in other words, have a secondary impact.

I’m not going to worry about the bicycles. But the issue raises an interesting question: what about mass transit? Do buses and light rail systems have a similar secondary impact? They must. Does anyone know the net effect on pollution? It must be circumstantial. But does anyone know the circumstances under which different forms of mass transit have different impacts on pollution? Has anyone thought to ask?

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2 responses to this post.

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  2. Posted by James D on January 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    This is a stupid argument.

    Firstly, much of the time bicycles are faster than cars in dense traffic. The times where it is possible because of traffic density for bicycles to hold up cars the opposite occurs. Cars hold up bicycles. See Topgears “race across London”. The other thing about this is that each cyclist who uses their bike as transport is one less car. As both a cyclist and a motorist I have to say the amount of times I have been held up by cyclists I can count on one hand. The amount of times I have been held up by cars, trucks and traffic lights far exceeds anytime I have been held up by cyclists.

    The second point, is probably the biggest. The analogy of a cyclist who themselves create no pollution, holding up someone who does create pollution, thereby the cyclist causing more pollution is the same argumant a crazed homacidal gunman could construct. It is like that crazed gunman saying that, it wasnt me shooting the people that caused them to die, it was the fact that they held up the flight of the bullets.

    Indeed a dumb argument. Cars and motorised transport causes the pollution. Reducing the number of cars reduces the pollution. It is that simple.

    Reply

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