Are Pollution-Filtering Bikes The Path To A Smog-Free Beijing?


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Beijing has more bicycles than most major cities on Earth. TonyV3112/Shutterstock

China’s absolutely dreadful smog epidemic – along with the millions of people that die from the exposure to it every single year – is one of the reasons the rising superpower has decided to take a leading role on the world stage on climate change and environmental issues. At the same time as it’s pushing for renewable energy proliferation, it’s also investing massively in large-scale “green” projects, including its otherworldly forest city.

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, the designer of the Smog Free Tower project – essentially giant air pollution filters – doesn’t see anything wrong with thinking big, but he’s realized that it may be the smallest things that make the biggest difference. In this case, he’s looking at bikes.


Beijing, one of the most polluted cities on Earth, has millions of them. It’s not entirely clear how many there are these days, but it’s at least 11 million. Even if someone doesn’t own a bike, new bike-sharing schemes and apps like Mobike are cropping up and providing at least 100,000 shared bikes for the entire city – almost 10 times more than there are in London or New York City.

With this in mind, Roosegaarde announced at the recent World Economic Forum in China that he was planning to combine his Smog Free Tower technology with as many of Beijing’s bikes as possible. The idea is that they will be augmented with a front rack-mounted device that strips away toxic and dangerous particulates in the air, leaving fresh air in the rider’s wake.

This type of filtration technology is especially good for bikes. Traffic is the major cause of Beijing’s smog problem, and if cyclists were to use these filtration systems, they’d be essentially cleaning the dirty air at its “source”.

At this point, the device is merely an idea – it isn’t even at the proof-of-concept stage yet, let alone mass production. Few details have been given on its design parameters, but it’s likely that merely cycling into smoggy air with it will filter out the pollution; an additional energy source won’t be required.


Few would argue that this is anything but a good idea, though. Bike-sharing startup OFO certainly thinks so: They've teamed up with the idiosyncratic designer to get his project off the ground. Watch this space!

[H/T: Wired]


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