Cowboy e-bikes now navigate you around air pollution

Belgian e-bike maker Cowboy has delivered on its promise to help riders avoid pollution on their commutes with a new air quality navigation feature in the company’s latest iOS and Android apps. Owners now have the option to pick the quickest or healthiest routes to their destination.

The feature is enabled by the integration of air quality data from a company called Breezometer, with a claimed data resolution of 5-meters (about 16 feet). That’s specific enough to help riders navigate around polluted routes in densely constructed cities like Amsterdam, as demonstrated in the video above.

Breezometer’s ability to measure air quality with such granularity involves some guesswork since it doesn’t have physical sensors distributed at 5-meter intervals around the globe. Encouragingly, Breezometer’s claims are backed by chief scientist, Dr. Gabriela Katz, who was previously at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Breezometer’s model starts with measured data from more than 47,000 sensors worldwide. It then weaves in additional data like live traffic, satellite imagery, smoke, wind, and weather using custom algorithms and machine learning techniques. Notably, Breezometer says that it measures air pollution emitted by “10 million traffic jam sections around the world” every 12 minutes for over 30,000 cities worldwide. The company then subjects its air quality measurements to a quality assurance process before reporting to ensure accuracy.

It certainly makes sense for Cowboy to incorporate an air pollution model that leans heavily on car traffic. After all, if you’ve ever bicycled alongside a traffic jam then your lungs and eyeballs are acutely aware of the hyperlocal pollution created by a hoard of idling combustion engines.

And it’s not like traditional air quality indexes like those used by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are without issues. “The government network of 3,900 monitoring devices nationwide has routinely missed major toxic releases and day-to-day pollution dangers,” said a damning Reuters report just two months ago.

So yeah, Cowboy’s new air quality navigation feature is a guess, but at least it’s an educated one that could benefit your heart and lungs over the long run.