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Protecting Hamilton’s air through pedal power

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Pedal power is taking on a new meaning in Hamilton

About 60 volunteers, so far, have signed up to bike around the city to collect air quality data that could eventually be used to improve the air quality around Hamilton’s streets and recreational trails.

“The technology is still innovative,” said Matt Lawson, of the city’s public health. “It’s something different. It’s one of the reasons why we wanted to support the project.”

EnvironmentHamiltonunveiled its new Bicycle Air Monitoring Program (BAM), the first of its kind in Canada, which will detail the type of particulate pollution is hovering in the air at ground level throughout the city’s streets and trails.

“It will help us red flag problem areas,” said Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, during a news conference at city hall June 26.

The project is modeled on Pittsburgh’s Group Against Smog and Pollution’s bike air monitoring system of particular matter hot spots. Lukasik said GASP has been assisting Environment Hamilton in setting up its monitoring project.

There will be 14 monitoring units and global positioning systems attached to the bikes’ handlebars to provide air quality data. Two of the cyclists will also have cameras attached to their bikes, said Jay Carter, local air quality assistant at Environment Hamilton who is overseeing the project, that will help to determine the causes of poor air quality.

The 60 volunteers who are willing to pedal their way around the city, said Carter, will be trained to use the technology and will have about two weeks on the bike. The volunteers are from across the city including Dundas, Winona and Flamborough, except from Binbrook. Along with Clean Air Hamilton and the city’s public health department, Environment Hamilton has also partnered with Thaat co-op, a cyclist urban delivery company, to use the technology.

“We are still looking for any and all volunteers,” Carter said.

EnvironmentHamiltonwas unable to showcase the monitoring units because they are still being reviewed at border customs. Lukasik said they hope to have them by the first week of July. Clean Air Hamilton and Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins provided the $25,000 funding to purchase and operate the GPS and air monitoring units.

A demonstration of the units will be on display July 13 during Hamilton’s Open Streets event. Carter said the program is scheduled to begin mid-July.

“It will allow us not only to have a map of when and where particulate matter is so cyclists can know where to avoid but also so that we can actually see what the causes will be,” said Carter.

Carter hopes the particulate data will be from the entire city and not just in the downtown areas.

Lukasik said the data collected, which will take a few weeks, will be uploaded to Environment Hamilton’s website starting in September.

“We will also be prioritizing (the information) and get it out first,” said Lukasik. “We also want to put information up there that our volunteer cyclists are interested in. I’m really interested to see what the air quality is when you are riding along the recreational trail in the Red Hill, or the Waterfront trail, areas that there might not be vehicles, but there are interesting to note.”

For instance Lawson, who lives in Dundas and has volunteered to be a cyclist in the project, says he wants to compare the air quality data from his normal route from the Valley Town to city hall with a route along one of Hamilton’s rail trails.

“We want to show the alternative routes to bike riding,” he said. “This will provide evidence to show that the rail trail is better than riding along Burlington Street.”

Clean Air Hamilton studies have found that about 200 people die each year because of the city’s poor air quality, and children and older people end up in hospital emergency rooms with breathing problems.

“We all want to see cleaner air,” said Denis Corr, chair of Clean Air Hamilton. “This is more personal for all of us. Whenever we see a cyclist on the road that’s a car that is not on the road, not emitting air pollution. (We) see this as a wonderful compliment to the programs that are in place.”

 

 

 

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