Air Clean Up

Are Bikes the Key to Reducing Beijing's Smog?

Aug 04 2017 Comments 0

China, and its capital Beijing in particular, have long been plagued with terrible air quality. It’s estimated that millions of residents lose their lives prematurely every year as a direct result of dirty airwaves, while it was found that Chinese power plants emit as much nitrous oxides (NOx) as all the passenger cars in the world just a few years ago.

Due to the exorbitant population of Beijing and its attendant vehicular traffic, the problem is exacerbated in the capital. For that reason, environmentalists and scientists all over the globe have been dreaming up ways to overcome the issue – and the latest involves battling the fumes with the power of the humble bicycle.

Four wheels good – two wheels better!

Using a bicycle in place of driving makes sense at even the most basic level. Not only are bikes quieter and involve zero emissions, but they’re cheaper to make, less dangerous and keep their users physically fit. For those reasons alone, it would make sense for a city like Beijing to adopt them in a big way… and it already has.

Though it’s impossible to gauge exactly how many bikes there are in the Chinese capital, estimates put the figure at at least 11 million units. With almost 1% (100,000) of those part of shared bicycle schemes devoted to make them accessible to as many people as possible, and the wide proliferation of bike-sharing apps such as Mobike, it’s clear that the residents are very much alert to the environmental benefits of hopping on their bike.

However, Dutch innovator and environmentalist Daan Roosegaarde has attempted to take the idea to the next level. Having already launched his Smog Free Tower project, Roosegaarde recently announced his attention to combine the air filtration technology with Beijing’s bikes to create mobile air purifiers that cleanse as their owners cycle.

A cleaner way to commute

Although it’s very much still at the drawing board stage, Roosegaarde’s idea is to mount an air filtration device onto the front rack of as many bicycles in the Chinese capital as possible. Then, as their owners cycle around the city, they’d not only be ensuring there was one less car on the road, but also actively cleaning the air around them.

No details have yet been divulged regarding the exact design parameters of the Smog Free bikes, but it’s believed that they will not require any external source of power other than the kinetic energy produced by the motion of cycling. As such, they’ll represent a cheap, renewable source of air cleansing and sustainable bike start-up ONO have already contacted Roosegaarde about turning his plan into a reality.

The bike filtration scheme is just the latest in a string of incentives by innovators both inside and outside China to clean up the country’s airwaves. The nation has already investigated large-scale initiatives such as the eminently interesting city forest and the use of catalysts to control emissions at power plants and the suchlike. 

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