Gasp: CSU Study Finds Fort Collins Bike Commuters Are Breathing Bad Air

November 18, 2015

If you commute by bike in Fort Collins, the benefits of your exercise may be getting offset by the polluted air you're breathing.

That's one of the major findings in the Fort Collins Commuter Study led by a couple of Colorado State University air quality researchers. They collected data by putting air monitors and GPS tracking equipment on 45 healthy, non-smoking bike commuters who traveled within city limits.

The researchers asked two questions: If you cycle or drive to work, how does your air pollution exposure change? Also, if you had a choice of route – the direct, busy one, or the less busy, longer one – could you change your exposure to pollution?

They found that exposures vary by pollutant. Drivers got the highest exposure to carbon monoxide and gaseous pollutants, whereas cyclists got higher exposure to particulate matter like black carbon.

Also among the findings: Drivers breathed in different pollutants than cyclists, including carbon monoxide. Cyclists were exposed to more substances such as black carbon. And, both cyclists and drivers taking alternative routes away from the bad air lowered lower their exposure to pollutants -- but the detours took longer.