British Columbia

How loud and polluted are Victoria's streets? Cycling coalition plans to find out

The futuristic-looking devices are small enough to fit inside a shoe box, but packed full of sensors that measure noise and air pollution — and they could soon be installed around Victoria, B.C. to improve the roads.

The small machines measure decibel level and air pollution

Mike Teachman, an electrical engineer and volunteer with the cycling coalition, holds up the device that measures air pollution and noise levels. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The futuristic-looking devices are small enough to fit inside a shoe box, but packed full of sensors that measure noise and air pollution. And they could soon be installed around Victoria, B.C. to improve the roads. 

The Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group for cyclists, and the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, a group focused on improving shared public spaces, are partnering together for the project. 

Corey Burger, with the cycling coalition, says gathering information is key to pushing for improvements. 

"The city is making these really great investments and [building] protected bike lanes throughout downtown and into the neighbourhoods," he told CBC's Megan Thomas. 

"We [want to] quantify just exactly how much better the street experience is going to be, from a noise and air pollution perspective, so this lets us get hard data."

The devices will be set up in fixed locations around the city and possibly also attached to cyclists' bikes for a moving measurement. 

"We've got a prototype so now the next step is figuring out who are going to partner with [for funding]," he said.

The screen on the device shows the different measurements it takes. (Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition/Twitter)

The boxes gives a decibel reading to measure noise intensity, flashing red when it gets too high  — which, according to WorkSafeBC is 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. 

It also measures the quality of the air in terms of particulate, nitrogen dioxide and ozone levels.  

"It's designed around how British Columbia already monitors for air pollution,"said Mike Teachman, an electrical engineer who volunteers with the cycling coalition. 

He held up the device as he spoke, measuring the particulate in the air — a kind of pollution emitted during forest fires and by cars.

"We're hitting 17 right now," he said, as cars passed by on a clear, sunny December day.  

"The goal for B.C. over an eight-hour period is to keep it 25 and below." 

Burger says a few places, including the City of Vancouver, have conducted similar research into air pollution, noise and cycling but their goal is a bit different. 

"No one has really done it like a group like ours, for a lengthy period of time to really get some great data across the seasons," he said. 

"This is a very new kind of thing." 

The project is a partnership between the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition and the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network. All Points West producer Megan Thomas met up with a couple of the people behind the idea to see how the machines works. 8:01

With files from Megan Thomas and All Points West

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.