On-bicycle exposure to particulate air pollution: Particle number, black carbon, PM2.5, and particle size

Steve Hankey, Julian D. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Inhalation of air pollution during transport is an important exposure pathway, especially for certain modes of travel and types of particles. We measured concentrations of particulate air pollution (particle number [PN], black carbon [BC], fine particles [PM2.5], particle size) using a mobile, bicycle-based monitoring platform during morning and afternoon rush-hour to explore patterns of exposure while cycling (34 days between August 14 and October 16, 2012 in Minneapolis, MN). Measurements were geo-located at 1 s intervals along 3 prescribed monitoring routes totaling 85 h (1426 km) of monitoring. Mean morning [afternoon] on-road concentrations were 32,500 [16,600] pt cm-3, 2.5 [0.7] μg m-3 BC, 8.7 [8.3] μg m-3 PM2.5, and 42 [39] nm particle diameter. Concentrations were correlated with street functional class and declined within small distances from a major road (e.g., for PN and BC, mean concentration decreased ~20% by moving 1 block away from major roads to adjacent local roads). We estimate the share of on-bicycle exposure attributable to near-traffic emissions (vs. regional pollution) is ~50% for PN and BC; ~25% for PM2.5. Regression models of instantaneous traffic volumes, derived from on-bicycle video recordings of nearby traffic, quantify the increase in particle-concentrations associated with each passing vehicle; for example, trucks were associated with acute, high concentration exposure events (average concentration-increase per truck: 31,000 pt cm-3, 1.0 μg m-3 PM2.5, 1.6 μg m-3 BC). Our findings could be used to inform design of low-exposure bicycle networks in urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Active travel
  • Non-motorized travel
  • Traffic mix
  • Traffic-related air pollution


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