From 23 October to 19 November, the air quality along four routes in Mechelen was measured by Meet Mee Mechelen. 24 enthusiastic cyclists each measured the concentrations of particulate matter using mobile sensors during the morning and evening rush hour and this over the course of two weeks.

Turning data into knowledge

Meet Mee Mechelen’ is an initiative by several partners including the City of Mechelen, Fietsersbond, Natuurpunt, Leefmilieugroep Mechelen-Zuid, Thuis in Nekkerspoel, Technopolis and VITO, where volunteers measure the air quality by bike along a number of routes in the city. The data that were collected by the cyclists give us a first idea of the concentrations of particulate matter along both a number of important axes and traffic-calmed zones during rush hour.

Scientific research has long demonstrated the impact of air quality on our health. Although the air quality in Flanders has improved in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done. The presence of particulate matter remains a health risk, which affects not only pedestrians and cyclists. Research shows that the air quality in the car is often worse than outside: the pollution remains there and cannot escape.

Several parameters influence the air quality on the Mechelen cycle paths. Important are the distance to traffic, traffic intensity, driving speed and other elements in the neighbourhood. The air quality is also highly dependent on the environment and the weather. The more open the street and the more wind, the less particulate matter will linger and the better the air quality will be.

That is why it is important that the current measurements are repeated: even with a lot of enthusiastic volunteers it is never possible to measure the air quality in Mechelen at the same time. The more individual measurements take place, the better and more representative the image of the air quality in the city will become. 

The city is already working on improving air quality by e.g. stimulating bicycle use, the use of electric vehicles, car sharing, preparing a low emission zone etc. With sufficient data a representative map of the average air quality (in the rush hour) can be created, which can be a useful tool to base the policy on. 

Ground Truth 2.0

Meet Mee Mechelen is a citizens’ initiative, open to everyone who wants to participate. People of Mechelen, policy officers and scientists have the ambition to jointly set up initiatives and provide support for a better living environment. The initiative was launched from Ground Truth 2.0, a European project funded by the European Commission.