Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Recycled Air: cycling cities clean

Roosegaarde’s scheme uses filtration units attached to Beijing’s bicycles to clean the air as people ride around Roosegaarde’s scheme uses filtration units attached to Beijing’s bicycles to clean the air as people ride around Studio Roosegaarde
04 Oct
2017
Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative method of combating air pollution

There may well be ‘nine million bicycles in Beijing’, but cycling in the home of the Forbidden City is hardly the healthiest of activities. Years of intense smog means Beijing has become a focal point for the global effort to tackle air pollution; the latest official air quality target set by the mayor of Beijing – 60 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic metre – is over twice the accepted World Health Organization level of 20 to 25 micrograms.

‘I became inspired by Beijing’s smog,’ says Daan Roosegaarde, founder of Rotterdam-based Studio Roosegaarde. ‘I’ve lived there. It’s so intense that you literally cannot see the other side of the street.’ 

Starting with Beijing, Roosegaarde hopes to make sweeping changes to the state of urban air around the world, by utilising an innovative method of cleaning the air using the bicycles themselves. ‘Beijing was a cycling city just 15 years ago,’ he points out. ‘That completely disappeared because of the [rise in] status of the car. I asked how could I make a design which gives value to the bicycle again?’

Partnering with ofo, China’s largest bike-sharing company (with around 20 million registered users riding over one million bicycles through 34 Chinese cities), he and his studio have developed a design for an air filter which attaches to the front handlebars, sucks in polluted air as it moves, cleans it, and releases the unpolluted air for the cyclist to breathe, while also (incrementally) cleaning the city’s air for everyone else. 

With a prototype bicycle currently under construction, Roosegaarde explains that the best method of powering the bicycle’s filtration system is currently being explored; whether it will ultimately use pedal power, solar power, or some other renewable energy source remains to be decided. ‘But it should be self-sufficient,’ he insists.

This is just the latest of Roosegaarde’s ideas to help clean up the world’s urban environments. ‘The Smog Free Bicycle is a follow-up to the Smog Free Project, which I initiated three and a half years ago,’ he explains. ‘That was about the dream of clean air and asking “Why have cities become machines that are killing us?”’

One example of his designs, the seven-metre tall Smog Free Tower, creates a ‘bubble’ of clean, filtered air around the structure and is designed for use in public settings such as parks and courtyards. With an effective range of over 20m, it can create safe havens free from the majority of both PM2.5 and PM10 pollutants.

‘These are not the final solutions for smog – that would be clean energy and electric cars, of course,’ continues Roosegaarde. ‘But that’s going to take ten to 15 years, and I’m not going to wait for that!’ He hopes to begin launching the Smog Free Bicycles and Towers next year across countries such as India, Mexico and Colombia – with an eye also on highly polluted cities such as London – where he argues they could reduce air pollution by up to 15 per cent.

This was published in the October 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Deserts

Biosphere 2 was one of the most ambitious experiments in…

Forests

High-quality, affordable drones can revolutionise the way that landscape and…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the impact of volcanoes on nearby human…

Mapping

A volunteer-led digital mapping project is at the heart of…

Cities

As the planet urbanises, attention is turning towards the most…

Forests

Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many…

Cities

A rising number of cruise ships and their ‘overlooked’ diesel…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the growth and impact of the world’s…

Deserts

Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…

Water

South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…

Forests

The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…

Mountains

In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…

Cities

New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…

Water

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…

Water

Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…

Mapping

New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…

Cities

Public transport in India could be on the verge of…

Water

To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…

Cities

IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…