It turns out that things aren’t that simple. Nicholas Good, BSc. PhD. and his team at the Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences Group at Colorado State University decided to study the issue. In 2015 they conducted what has become known as the Fort Collins Commuter Study. They wanted to quantify how choosing between commuting via car or bicycle and the route you take affects personal exposure to air pollutants during commuting. The team analyzed same person differences in exposures to multiple air pollutants including black carbon (BC), carbon monoxide (CO), ultrafine particle number concentration (PNC), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) during commutes between the home and workplace for 45 participants.
In addition to Dr. Good’s study several other presentations at the AAR conference clearly made the case that particulate matter air pollution is very much a micro-environment problem. Aja Ellis from Carnegie Mellon University noted in her research regarding diesel buses that locating bike lanes near bus lanes did not lead to “effective design for human use.”