CLEARING SMOG – WITH A BIKE

No matter what way it manifests itself, pollution is a gross problem to have. It could be plastic floating about in the sea, trash strewn about among trees, or perhaps the greatest culprit in today’s times…smog. With some industrial powerhouses in the States’ biggest cities, the US certainly can’t point fingers, but perhaps the place that is deepest down the rabbit hole in terms of pollution, by a lot of standards, is China.

According to Science Magazine, China’s pollution problem became especially apparent when “70% of the nation’s 74 largest cities logged pollution levels above government air quality standards,” circa winter 2013, also dubbed the “airpocolypse.” Although the government has since enhanced their focus on attempting to side-step and tame the pollution problem, issues with air quality remain. In fact, there are some days in China when the pollution is so hazardous that it impacts cities’ productivity levels – preventing children from getting to school without fear of risking health and workers from commuting with the same worries – even while wearing the face masks that are common in that part of the world. In fact, over 1.6 million people die in China each year from health issues that stem from breathing toxic air.

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While there are many initiatives in cahoots to curb the problem, one unique attempt has recently taken the spotlight: battling pollution on bike. If you’re scratching your head, let me back up a minute. I’m not talking about reducing pollution because of commuting via the green (albeit slower) form of transportation (although that, undoubtedly, still helps.) I’m talking about bikes with the capability to filter air and positively impact pollution as you ride.

The wheels, a product of the Smog Free Project, were dreamt up and designed by Daan Roosegaarde, who is behind Studio Roosegaarde, a design studio with offices in Rotterdam and Beijing. Roosegaarde’s inspiration came one day as he gazed outside his apartment window to a skyline he couldn’t see, due to what else – smog.

Following his initial idea, a “smog vacuum cleaner,” which was funded through Kickstarter and later revealed in a public park in Tianjin, Roosegaarde thought of bikes, which he easily explains have always been a symbol of health and energy efficiency. Plus, he goes on “The bicycle is part of the Dutch DNA of course, and Beijing and other cities in China used to be bike cities. We want to bring back its prestige and follow our ethos of making citizens a part of the solution instead of the problem.”

The technology from Roosegaarde’s initial tower will be present in the bike — acting like vacuum cleaners, they will create pockets of clean air within the vicinity of their rider. Roosegaarde comments:

“Bikes have always been a symbol of energy-friendly and congestion-reducing living, but this bike serves a double function by cleaning the air as you cycle.”

According to HYPEBEAST:

“As riders pedal, the bikes clean the contaminated air surrounding them. Smog is essentially sucked in through a vacuum-like device on the front of the bike, and then filtered out as fresh air through its vents.”

Roosegaarde himself envisions the smog-free bikes will be implemented by some of the country’s popular bike-sharing programs, which are plentiful.  Of course, even he realizes that bikes alone cannot cure China’s air…but at least it’s a step (or pedal) in the right direction… not only in China, but perhaps someday everyplace where pollution is a problem.

You can keep tabs on the project here: https://www.studioroosegaarde.net/project/smog-free-project/

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