Human Environments Analysis Lab (HEAL)

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Urban Science





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Urban cyclists are exposed to many traffic-related air pollutants including particulate matter (PM) that may increase vulnerability to health effects. This study investigates second-by-second personal exposure to PM2.5 (fine particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in diameter and less) along bicycle commuting paths, and assesses elements of the natural and built environment for the relative importance of these factors in understanding the variability in PM2.5 personal exposure. Urban cyclists were carrying high resolution PM2.5 monitors (placed in a backpack) in combination with portable GPS trackers to provide a spatial identity to each one-second pollutant measurement. The results of this study indicate that daily averages of PM2.5 concentrations from all bicycle routes were weakly correlated with meteorological variables, however, a strong influence of regional levels of PM2.5 was observed. Geospatial analysis of PM2.5 personal exposure concentrations showed a considerable variation within routes, correlated with land use (with lower concentrations in parks and higher in industrial areas) and clustered at four areas: busiest bridge, heavily trafficked road segments, the downtown urban core, and two construction sites. This study has found many incidences of personal exposure to PM2.5 exceeding the provincial guidelines for healthy activity (e.g., very poor (PM2.5 > 91 μg/m3) pollution concentrations are clustered in three regions: approaching the bridge in the west part of the city; the downtown urban core; and two under construction spots), which suggests behavioural and infrastructure modifications in balancing the health benefits of cycling with the environmental exposure to air pollutants.


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