The Air Out There- NYC Air Pollution and Urban Cycling

One of the things mentioned by countless cyclists is that their love for riding bloomed with the increased opportunity to get out and enjoy the fresh air.  Riding in any season is great for blood circulation and respiratory expansion, but do we ever really think about how "fresh" the fresh air is- particularly in high population areas like New York City. 

Photo by Christian Mueller/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Christian Mueller/iStock / Getty Images

Last year, researchers at Columbia University began a study to understand how much air pollution New York cyclists are exposed to as they ride their bikes in the city, and the affect of it on their hearts.  Cyclists were fitted with an exercise vest that contained a wearable pollution monitor, bio-metric sensors, and a blood pressure cuff for five 24-hour periods centered around five bike commutes. Information obtained from the study will be used by researchers to inform New York and other big cities on how to improve their biking infrastructure to reduce the exposure of cyclists to air pollution. Results have not yet been publicized.

The University of British Columbia ran a similar study in 2012 to determine if alternate routes and times of travel were more beneficial to cyclists respiratory and cardiovascular health.  

The most recent New York City Community Air Survey, released earlier this week, examines neighborhood air quality from 2008-2014.  It shows a significant decrease in harmful chemicals like nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, and sulfur dioxide across the past six years. Chemical levels were measured seasonally and vary by neighborhood, with the South Bronx and Manhattan continuing to emit high levels of pollutants.  Researcher's credit the recent upgrade of properties to greener options and phasing out older oil heating systems with leading the cleaner air charge.  

Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Cycling in the city has seen double-digit growth in the past four years, doubling the number of regular cyclists, according to the Department of Transportation. More cyclists means less emissions, and as New York makes strides to improve the air quality and lower it's ranking on the "Most Polluted City" scale, cyclists can begin to breathe easier.

The increase in biking infrastructure in New York and other major cities can help cyclists to avoid highly populated and polluted routes. Using bike lanes which separate riders from traffic and riding on side streets instead of main roads will lessen pollutant exposure.

Overall cycling, even in large cities, provides a great health benefit despite the air quality, saving up to 12 lives a year compared to car use.  As New York improves, the next time you're on a main road, consider taking a side street- your commute may take longer, but your lungs will thank you.


Did you or anyone you know participate in the Columbia University study? Share your experience below!




Pre-Ride Nutrition Hacks with Harvest & Revel

There are few things worse than getting on your bike and feeling shaky or realizing that your breakfast isn't going to sustain the long ride ahead. 

Sara Elise, private chef and owner of Harvest & Revel, shared two of her go-to recipes that are easy to make and packed with nutrition to give you the energy you need to start your ride positively.

Savory Oat Bowl with Soft-Boiled Eggs


Quick-cook oats

Two organic, cage-free eggs

Can of organic black beans (no additives), rinsed and drained

1 organic sweet potato, cut into cubes with skin on

Sea salt

Paprika (if desired for extra smokiness)

Extra virgin olive oil

Optional ingredients: roasted mushrooms and/or carrots, sliced raw avocado and/or radish, chickpeas, lentils, sauteed kale and/or spinach

  • When you wake up, preheat your oven to 425 and cut your sweet potato. Put in a bowl, toss with olive oil and sea salt, and set on a baking sheet. Put in the oven for 25 minutes, or until fork tender, turning them about half way through.  As the sweet potatoes are cooking, bring two cups of water to boil in a separate pot. Once boiling, add 1 cup of oats.
  • After 5 minutes (or when the oatmeal is at desired consistency), remove the oats from the heat source. Stir in sea salt and paprika to taste. Add in the rinsed and drained black beans.
  • Add the sweet potatoes when they come out of the oven.
  • Heat another pot of two cups of water to boil. Once boiling, add both eggs. Boil for 8 minutes and then submerge under cold water. Once cool, peel the eggs and place them on top of the bowl.

Feel free to add other toppings such as sliced avocado, roasted mushrooms or carrots (roasting them the same way you did the sweet potatoes), chickpeas, and lentils. You can customize the bowl however you'd like! 

Another great thing about the bowl is that you can make a large enough serving with all of the toppings, except for the egg, and save it to heat up and eat for breakfast for the week.

Breakfast Smoothie


Quick-cook or regular oats

3 cups of loose, organic spinach

1 organic orange (or 3 scoops of peanut butter, or 1 cup of cantaloupe)

1 organic banana

1 cup of organic almond milk

1/2 cup of water

1 cup of ice

Pure and local honey, to taste

  • Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for 2 minutes. Taste. If the smoothie needs sweetener, add a small amount of honey (honey is the best natural sweetener, agave is the next best option).
  • Pour in your container of choice and enjoy!

Remember, skewings your pre-workout meals or snacks to be heavier in carbs (vegetables, fruits and some whole grains) and lower in fats will help you to fuel up properly and avoid cramps

Look out for more nutritional, tasty, energy-boosting treats from Harvest & Revel- our favorite local and organically sourced private event catering company.

Have any pre-ride nutrition tips that work for you? Share them below!


All photos courtesy of Harvest & Revel. Check out their mouth watering IG- @harvestandrevel

Your Brain on Cycling

For those of us old enough to remember Rachel Leigh and her infamous frying pan in the 1990's anti-drug PSA, we learned a valuable lesson- drugs fry your brain (or so they say, right?). In the spirit of those positive intentions we laid out in early '16, we're looking to continue our personal growth, and since we are talking cycling- our muscle growth.

The most important muscle of all, our brainius maximus, benefits highly from our favorite sport. Improvements linked to cycling include better memory retention, decreased stress levels, and increased productivity. We all think cycling is the bee's knee's, so here are a few more reasons to justify the 20 degree, ump-teen layered rides we love to endure.

Image Credit: Shutter Stock

Image Credit: Shutter Stock

Stress and anxiety relief

Life can sometimes get the best of us, and in those moments of anxiety, it may seem like nothing will help. Research has shown that vigorous activity helps to reduce anxiety, fear, and sensitivity symptoms. When one exercises regularly, they are less likely to develop anxiety disorders or depression.

Increased enjoyment

Prolonged activity, such as cycling, wakes up the endorphin's in your nervous system and can provide feelings of euphoria. Just like a "runner's high", cycling contributes to the positive mood modulators in your life. As we continue to ride, our moods will improve, both on and off the bike.

Be productive, B-E- productive!

While procrastination is one of the most infamous excuses worldwide, when regularly riding a bike, it may become mute. Cycling energizes the brain and the body, leading to an increase in your productivity. Your ability to formulate ideas, provide input, and make sensible choices are heightened and the increased stimulation will lessen feelings of sluggishness and fatigue.

Rest better

Ever had the best sleep after a long ride? (Yea, me too.) Cycling lessens the amount of cortisol (the hormone responsible for stress) in the body which often keeps us from falling into a deep sleep. Regularly riding a bike is said to help synchronize your natural body rhythms and improve your sleep capacity.

Memory improvement

The hippocampus controls long-term and spatial memory, and just like the rest of your muscles, it grows with exercise. Cycling provides the brain with the stimulation needed to produce more cells in the hippocampus, thereby growing it's size and retention capability. Cognitive functioning, which is directly related to diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, is stayed with regular exercise.

Sexy time

You may be tired after a long ride, but the feeling of accomplishment is radiant. That confidence in your ability and physical agility makes you feel sexier and people definitely take notice. The rise in blood oxygen levels that occur from high aerobic activity produces feelings of intense well-being and increased sexual vitality. Added bonus- those powerful leg, buttock and lower back muscles that cycling builds are all the muscles used during intercourse. The better developed these muscles, the longer and more athletic intercourse will be.

All in all, cycling can lead to an improvement in mental clarity, memory function, and sexual drive. . . not bad for a pole in the butt.

Anyone down for winter riding? Because I'm sold!

Think of any other mental health benefits of cycling? Let us know below!