19 December 2014

Cycling in Pollution - the Beijing Solution (?)

Last weekend riding out through Kawasaki and Yokohama on a cold morning and busy streets, I felt as if I was breathing in diesel fumes at times as the trucks accelerated from traffic signals, the cold engines not burning as clean as after they warm up.  It was a relief to get further down the Miura Peninsula and into the clean sea breeze ... at least it was great until the sea breeze turned into a swirling gale force wind.

Today, I saw an online article in The Guardian on air pollution in Beijing.  Yes, everyone living in Asia knows about air pollution in Beijing, so nothing new.  But still it was a well-written article that conveys what it must be like to live in such an environment ... and makes one glad that Tokyo air is much, much cleaner.  Of course, Beijing pollution creates huge problems for outdoor athletic activities -- especially school activities, runners and cyclists -- all of which are discussed in the article.  According to the article, the British School has an inflatable dome, so that tennis, basketball and other sports can be played in filtered, relatively clean air.

As for cycling, one Beijing resident British artist, Matt Hope, has come up with a partial solution -- the breathing bike!  Power from pedaling drives an air filtering system.  Here is an explanation of the invention from early 2013:

The Guardian article has a nice photo of the bike in use, in Beijing traffic, riding by the CCTV tower ... next to the building that burned in a spectacular fire in 2009 when it was almost done with construction and someone decided at would make a nice place for a fireworks display.

Not something that I would ever want to use.  I will be happy if the only power I generate is for my bike lights ... and maybe a USB charger for my iPhone or Garmin.

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