Newsletter Weekly Update

Air Quality & Bikes

People biking on the University Path, photo:

Let’s Talk Air Quality & Bikes

The air quality forecast for this week is relatively good as smoke from this year’s record-breaking Canadian wildfire season is clearing from Wisconsin for now. It’s a good time to become familiar with the Air Quality Index and make a plan for outdoor exercise and transportation depending on the AQI number and your individual sensitivity to poor air quality, if you haven’t already done this.

AQI numbers don’t account for all differences in location and time of day. Outside of wildfire smoke, people on bikes grapple with pollution from motor vehicles, especially on busy roadways and intersections. Air quality in these locations can be significantly worse than on bike/walk paths physically separated from roadways. Being in a car does not prevent exposure to roadway pollution, either. There is evidence bike commuters can sometimes experience lower exposure to motor vehicle air pollution than drivers on high-traffic urban roads, as bike riders are less likely to spend significant time sitting in traffic.

Risks from exposure to poor air quality vary based on individual health circumstances, and one’s healthcare provider is the best source of individual advice on these risks. However, existing data support the idea that for most individuals, health benefits from biking outdoors outweigh risks even when air quality is fairly poor, with the exception being days with extremely high pollution levels (such as those associated with advisories to stay indoors) or very long-duration exercise (such as experienced by bike couriers in dense urban environments using no mitigation tools).

There are ways to mitigate exposure to poor air quality when biking. If you must be outside during an air quality alert day, you can use a well-fitted N95, KN95, or better respirator to significantly reduce exposure to harmful particle pollution. These respirators are not designed to handle non-particle pollution including ozone, VOCs, and NOx. N95+ options catering to people biking or running also exist.

Photo: Madison Bikes Board Member Craig Weinhold wears a respirator designed for outdoor activity

Fitchburg Festival Of Speed

It’s technically not in Madison, but if you’re looking for a good time this weekend either participating in a group ride, racing a criterium, or spectating this Saturday, Fitchburg Festival of Speed has something for you. The organizers encourage biking to the event, which you can do from Madison fairly easily on either the SW path or the Cannonball path.

Group Rides

Monday evening you can join the Monday 40 social ride. Tuesday evening is looking great for the Madison Women’s Cycling Club or the Slow Roll Ride. Saturday you can check out Brazen Dropouts’ morning Row Ride.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.