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Air Quality for Bikers

If you see people biking around Boston this week with what looks like an oxygen tube hanging off them, no, it’s not a bizarre experimental treatment for lung cancer. The Cambridge Public Health Department is conducting an air quality study for bikers, and this week I’m helping them take measurements.

The microaethalometer's the one on the left.

To do this, I’m wearing a messenger bag while I’m biking, with a microaethalometer inside and an intake tube snaking up the strap and clipped near my neck. A separate GPS unit tracks exactly where I am when a specific measurement is taken, to point out any particularly bad spots.

One of the most common reasons people give for not wanting to ride bikes is that they’re worried about breathing in exhaust. This study will try to document whether that’s a legitimate worry. Personally I think being sedentary on the bus is far worse for me than any exhaust I might inhale, but I guess I’ll have to see what the results are. Stay tuned.

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