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The bicycle as an air filter

20 million bikes for clean air. This idea is currently maturing in China. A bicycle rental company provides bicycles that filter the ambient air during use. The idea is to finally do something about the bad air in Beijing and other supermetropolises.

The Dutch inventor Daan Roosegaarde wants to fight air pollution in China. Together with the Chinese bicycle rental company ofo and the design platform TEZIGN, he is equipping 20 million bicycles with air filters. These will then not only travel completely without emissions and keep their users fit. The bikes can also purify the ambient air by capturing pollutants from the air and then releasing the purified air.

Roosegaarde had already tackled the problem of air pollution in Beijing by building the Smog Free Tower. This is already called the "Temple of Clean Air" by residents. The air pollution around the tower has been reduced by about 55%. The filtered dirt from the tower is then processed into jewellery.  Still, it would take a lot more of these buildings to help not only the people immediately around the tower, but all over Beijing. So the wheels could tackle the problem as mobile filters throughout the city. The inventor has also developed a filter that can be installed on houses.

Roosegaarde was prompted to tackle air pollution by a visit to Beijing a few years ago, where he learned that children were often not allowed to play in the streets because the air pollution was too high.

Of course, it would make more sense to prevent air pollution from happening in the first place, and to regulate vehicles and industry more. Environmental zones do not yet exist in China. But since 2008, driving bans have been imposed in Beijing from time to time, banning either even or odd number plates. Then sometimes industry in the nearby areas is also shut down. Usually, however, such measures are only imposed at particulate matter levels of 300 micrograms per cubic metre or more. This is 12 times what the World Health Organisation considers harmful to health. In Europe, the limit is 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Critics of these driving bans say that the number plate ban does not create an incentive to get a newer car. They also say that in China, industry and, for example, private heating are so dependent on coal that something would have to change not only in terms of vehicles, but in terms of energy policy as a whole.

Nevertheless, the bikes are a good start to raise awareness among the population. Moreover, with 20 million bikes, the enormous amount of filters alone will be able to provide a little more clean air. If the project is successful, cyclists in Europe could one day also make the air a little cleaner when cycling.