Waste Management

  • Do Cyclists Make Pollution Worse?

Do Cyclists Make Pollution Worse?

Mar 04 2019 Read 712 Times

Since the introduction of the congestion charge in 2003 and Ken Livingstone’s £500 million cycling scheme back in 2008, London has become well known for its biking culture. In the past decade, there have been multiple schemes installed across the city to promote the use of bikes instead of relying on public transport or driving a vehicle through the busy streets.

Santander Cycles, or ‘Boris bikes’, dockless electric bikes and cycle superhighways are just a few of the large-scale cycling schemes launched across England’s capital in recent years. Most consider the encouragement and promotion of cycling around the city as great for both residents’ health and London’s pollution levels.

But not everyone is as on board with the cycling schemes as you may think. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current Editor of the Evening Standard, George Osborne, recently published a letter in his newspaper that paints the cycle superhighways in a negative light.

In response to a letter from Jocelyn, an Evening Standard reader, Osborne published claims that “some of the cycle superhighways are ill-conceived, causing near-permanent congestion and pollution”. Jocelyn wrote to the newspaper to argue that the Thames river should be used to create cycle bypasses and to complain about the current cycling set-up across the city.

Pros & cons of cycling in London

So, with George Osborne and Jocelyn’s comments in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of cycling in and around London, for both residents and the environment.


  • Cost-effective – cycling around London costs less than using public transport.
  • Beneficial for your health – there are a number of different health benefits of choosing to cycle in London, including reduced stress, better heart health and increased muscle strength
  • Environmental advantages – choosing to avoid public transport or driving a car in the city will reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your impact on the environment.


  • Road safety – when cycling in a busy city you must constantly be alert and aware of what is going on around you to avoid accidents. The introduction of cycle-only lanes and superhighways aims to reduce the number of biking accidents on the roads.
  • Congestion & pollution – as pointed out by George Osborne, the ever-increasing number of cyclists on the roads and the number of cycle-only lanes can cause congestion for both cyclists and drivers. While there is no evidence to support his claim of increased pollution, there may need to be a rethink of the layout of cycle lanes to reduce the amount of congestion.

All in all, it seems unfair to say cycling itself increases pollution. It may be a better idea for the UK to consider how it generates energy before banning bikes to reduce pollution. Find out more in the article ‘Does the Future of UK Gas lie with Biomethane and Shale?'

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