Sniffer Bikes monitor air pollution levels on the go

sniffer bikes

The Sniffer Bike is a pedal-powered laboratory – a mobile particulate matter sensor that aims to raise awareness about air pollution. Developed as an open-source project, the Sniffer Bike comprises a small box of handlebar-mounted electronics that measures the air every ten seconds and presents the data on an interactive dashboard, which can then be shared to build a picture of local air pollution.

To kickstart the project, 10 cyclists have been given a Sniffer Bike to gather first-hand data around Utrecht. Over the course of two weeks, the Sniffer Bikes have covered over 3,800 km and collected a large amount of data.

sniffer bike map

Light blue blocks signify less air pollution whilst the red blocks denote high concentrations of particulate matter. The image on the right plots the trips taken by the Sniffer Bike and details levels of particulate matter (both 2.5µm or 10µm) throughout each route.

Further information about the project including plans for how to build your own Sniffer Bike can be viewed at

Here in Britain, air pollution has the potential to damage our health from before we are born, dog us throughout our lives, and for over 40,000 of us every year, kill us.

Our poisoned air affects all of us, no matter our age and recent studies highlights the damage extending far beyond the lungs. Research has revealed that air pollution causes a significant reduction in intelligence – equivalent to missing an entire year of education.

It now appears that air pollution may be damage our health before we are even born.

| “It is always good if possible to take less polluted routes if you are pregnant – or indeed if you are not pregnant”

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London have found evidence that nanoparticles of airborne soot make their way via a pregnant women’s lungs to lodge in the placentas – researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too.

“It is a worrying problem – there is a massive association between air pollution a mother breathes in and the effect it has on the foetus,” says Dr Lisa Miyashita, one of the researchers. “It is always good if possible to take less polluted routes if you are pregnant – or indeed if you are not pregnant. I avoid busy roads when I walk to the station.”

A study of over half a million births in London confirmed a link between air pollution during pregnancy and low birth weight (and the resulting health complications throughout life) leading doctors to say the implications for many millions of women are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”.

Greenpeace air pollution filter

As children we are exposed to air pollution on the school run and while in the playground. Unicef UK equipped six school children in London with personal air monitors which recorded soot particles over a 24-hour period. Researchers found that while the kids spent around 7 per cent of the day travelling, they experienced 15 per cent of their daily exposure to the pollutant while on their journeys. And while they spent 32 per cent of the day at school, they got 44 per cent of their exposure to the pollution during that time.

Amy Gibbs, Unicef UK’s director of advocacy, said: “Every day, thousands of children across the UK are setting off on a toxic school run that could impact their lifespan and contribute to serious long-term health problems.”

Things are little better for older folk. Those over 50 in areas with high levels of nitrogen oxide show a 40 per cent greater risk of developing dementia than those living in areas with the least pollution according to a study published in the BMJ Open journal. The authors state the link between high pollution and dementia diagnosis cannot be explained by other factors known to raise risks of the disease.

ETA cycle insurance

Ethical cycle insurance

On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. Check your small print for so-called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use the term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.

With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future. No wonder The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be Britain’s most ethical insurance company.



  1. Paul Swain


    I was thinking about doing much the same but getting a cheap off the shelf thing from China and attaching it to my bike, so I have a portable pollution detector. I am surprised no one has done this already.

    Here’s what I am thinking of using:
    Air Detector Portable

    It runs on battery and I think you could add a quick lock or a Gopro mount pretty easily.

    • The ETA


      Great idea, Paul – we just ordered one

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