School buses, dump trucks, SUVs and old cars are cramping my carbon neutral commute.

A few years ago while I was in New York City, a ban was passed on smoking in places of work (i.e. restaurants, bars, clubs, law offices, and even health clubs). There was a huge uproar of bar owners claiming people would rather stay home and smoke than go to a bar without their cigarettes, but everything turned out okay. A couple years later the same ban was created in Seattle while I was living here, then I moved to Hawaii and shortly after that they too banned smoking in public places. Seems to me clean air acts just follow me around.

What gets me is that the same people that will raise their nose and treat a smoker like they are inhuman will see I bicyclist on the side of the road and gun it to get by. This raises two issues: 1) Is it necessary to prove that your 4.2L V8 can go faster up a hill than my hairy power sticks (thanks Loren)? and more importantly, 2) Do you realize the amount of exhaust you are shoving into my lungs by extending your right toe?

City air is bad enough as we head into the summer months without needless extra cars. Here’s what Dr. Michael Colgan says about city smog and exercise:

Without oxygen from the environment, you would die within minutes. But in order to get this vital gas today, we also have to breathe carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and a smoldering waste dump of poisonous man-made gases and particulate matter. All those joggers running down the median grass strip of Santa Monica Boulevard in their morning pursuit of health, are doing their bodies more harm than good. With the exertion of running, they are breathing 12-20 times the air of sedentary folk. There is no way the benefits of nutrition and exercise can overcome the damage caused by sucking in that much chemical soup. They’d be better off spending an extra hour in bed.

Think you’re safe because you don’t commute by bike? Aside from the obvious selfishness of that thought, here’s more from Colgan:

Don’t think you can dodge carbon monoxide, or any other toxic man-made gas. If you live in a major city in America, your blood levels of carboxyhemoglobin are likely to be three times that of folk in small mountain communities. If you are an athlete you are in double jeopardy, because you use a lot more air than sedentary folk. And don’t think it doesn’t affect you. Vital capacity (V02 max) starts to decline at a blood level of carboxyhemoglobin of 2.6%, an average level found in non-smoking, sedentary, urban folk.

Well, I like cities, so here’s my solution:

    1) Stop driving gas guzzlers, you don’t have that many soccer balls to haul around.

    2) Think of your car as a giant cigarette, and your foot does the exhaling. Exhale politley!

    3) Try to use the bus whenever you can. When you take parking into account it can be just as fast, and far less stressful.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. You are right. In fact, I am going to sell my bikes (due to the rubber that is produced in 3rd world countries which has lower standards of pollution) and I will just roll coconuts down the street while trying to balance on top of them. Of course they will be locally grown organic coconuts. If they ever fall apart, I can use the fibers to weave my own clothing, drink the milk, and eat the meat inside. All the while I will be shamelessy promoting the fact that I still use money printed for a private company called the Federal Reserve. Think that the feds are watching me yet?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *