Bicycle Blueprint
Introduction

NYC Cycling
1. NYC Bike Policy
2. State of NYC Cycling
3. Cyclists & Streets
A Bike and a Prayer


Riding Infrastructure
4. Street Design
5. Bridges
6. Road Surfaces
7. Greenways
8. Parks
9. Bicycles and Transit
10. Reducing Traffic


Security
11. Bicycle Theft
12. On-Street Parking
13. Indoor Parking


On the Job Cycling
14. Bicycle Messengers
Fifth, Park & Madison
15. Freight Cycles
16. Gov't Cycling


Reducing Risks
17. Accidents
Three Who Died
Air Pollution


Bicycle Education
19. Schools
20. Public Education


Appendices

      Chapter 18:
Air Pollution
a) Bad Air
b) Pollutants and Damage They Do
c) Pollution Control: Too Little, Too Late
 The Bicycle Solution
e) Trial of the QB6: The Fight for Clean Air in NYC
f) Chapter 18 Recommendations
Table 18: Know Your Poisons: N.Y.C. Pollution Scorecard
Sidebar: Clean-Air Legislation

NYC Bicyclists Save Pollution
Number of Daily Cyclists 75,000
Annual Bicycle Miles203 million
Urban Auto Emissions (Grams/Mile)
CO 78.0
Hydrocarbons 4.4
NOx 1.5
If every three bicyclists take one car off the road...
Tons of Auto Emissions Avoided per year
CO 5,800
Hydrocarbons 320
NOx 110
Source: Komanoff Energy Associates. Assumes 5,000 messengers traveling 50 miles/day, 70,000 “commuter” cyclists riding 8 miles/day, 250 days/yr.

The Bicycle Solution

Read the latest news on this subject.

A damaging, and ironic, effect of air pollution is its discouraging effect on cycling. If even a fraction of city trips now taken by car were made by bike, New Yorkers would see (and feel) a dramatic improvement in the air they breathe. Short trips are particularly insidious, because cars emit more pollutants when their engines are cold. For instance, under typical speeds on a local urban street, engines running cold produce 4-5 times the CO and twice the hydrocarbon emissions (a precursor to smog) per mile as engines running hot. [12] Indeed, for a 5-mile trip with a catalytic-converter equipped car, 80% of hydrocarbon emissions are generated by cold-starting and evaporation after the engine has been shut off. Yet short trips, including many commutes or quick hops to rail lines, are ideal for bicycling.

We calculate that bicycling already spares the city almost 6,000 tons of carbon monoxide each year, plus hundreds of tons of ozone- forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (see table, right). Nationwide, bicyclists forgoing auto travel save between 120 and 680 million gallons of gasoline per year, equivalent to 0.1%-0.6% of fuel consumed by passenger vehicles. This translates into significant savings of vehicle emissions: as much as 0.5% of NOx, 0.9% of hydrocarbons, and a 1.2% savings of CO. [13]

Proportional savings could be far greater in dense urban settings. A recent British study estimated that a pro-environment, pro-bike transport policy could convert 20-50% of non-pedestrian trips in the U.K. to bicycles, displacing between 5% and 24% of total car trips. At its upper limit, such a shift could eliminate over 20% of auto emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, and up to 14% of vehicle-produced nitrogen oxides. Even a 20% shift of car trips to cycling would eliminate over 6% of vehicle-produced CO and hydrocarbons, and over 4% of NOx. [14]

George T. Nelson
Clean-air activist issues “environmental ticket,” Manhattan.
Photo: George T. Nelson.

Environmental scientist Barry Commoner has long argued that “pollution prevention calls for replacing the production technologies that now assault the environment with processes that are inherently free of pollutants.” [15] Encouraging bicycling (and walking) while discouraging private automobile travel is a quick and cheap way for New York City to cleanse the poisons from its atmosphere. Such a program, in conjunction with stricter emissions standards, alternative fuel conversion, increased auto inspections and maintenance, and a renewed investment in public transit and rail freight, offers a truly sustainable path to clean air and a healthy city.

NOTES:
12. Komanoff Energy Associates, The Environmental Benefits of Bicycling and Walking in the United States, Federal Highway Administration, 1992, p. 19. See also Andy Rowell and Malcom Fergusson, Bikes Not Fumes, Cyclists' Touring Club, Godalming, England, 1991, p. 3.
13. Komanoff Energy Associates, op cit., pp. 15, 26.
14. Rowell and Fergusson, op. cit. pp. 14-16.
15. Barry Commoner, “Free Markets Can't Control Pollution,” The New York Times, June 10, 1990.


a) Bad Air
b) Pollutants and Damage They Do
c) Pollution Control: Too Little, Too Late
 The Bicycle Solution
e) Trial of the QB6: The Fight for Clean Air in NYC
f) Chapter 18 Recommendations
Table 18: Know Your Poisons: N.Y.C. Pollution Scorecard
Sidebar: Clean-Air Legislation