Fairfax residents bike to keep air cleaner

FAIRFAX, April 30, 2013 – Bruce Wright often gets around Fairfax by bicycle–in part to reduce air pollution–and he thinks other area travelers should do the same.

Wright is chairman of an organization called Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, an eight-year-old group which aims to make bicycle travel by Fairfax residents safer, more convenient and more prevalent.

“Our main goal is to ensure that cycling is an integral part of the transportation network in Fairfax,” Wright said.

How integral does Wright want bicyclists to be on Fairfax roads?

He said it should be a whole-family affair.

“Most kids now are driven to school, which [contributes to] air pollution,” Wright said.

Chuck Turner, director of air quality monitoring for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said that while that may be true, by and large, air pollution is on the decline.

The exception? Northern Virginia.

“The trend is improving, [but] we still have some work to do,” Turner said.

“Ozone is the primary issue in Northern Virginia,” Turner said.

“The whole Northern Virginia area [does] not meet the air quality standard for ozone,” Dan Salkovitz, meteorologist for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said.

Even though this region does not have much industry, the number of cars on the road in the area detracts from local air quality.

“Bikes are a great help [to air quality],” Salkovitz said.

Every time people are on bicycles instead of in cars, they are playing a small part to improve the quality of the air and of the environment, Salkovitz said.

While cyclists make a contribution to the air quality of the community when they cycle, however, Salkovitz said they do put their own health at risk.

This is especially true when cyclists are stopped in traffic behind automobile tailpipes.

“In that situation, you’re exposing yourself to pollution,” Salkovitz said.

Wright himself sees other challenges to bicycle travel, including poor neighborhood street design, but said people should give bicycle travel a chance.

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About Elizabeth Grisham

I am a journalist, historian and communication researcher. I hold Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and communication from George Mason University and Master of Arts degrees in Pre-doctoral American history and science communication, also from Mason. I study epidemics, public health policy and related communication practices. Law degrees and a Ph.D. in history--with a focus on public health--to come.
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