Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Air quality infographic from Clean Air Partners

Today is a Code Green day. What does that mean? Clean Air Partners recently released a new infographic on air quality that includes explanations of the various air quality ratings.

We've been fortunate that we've had a relatively mild summer without many Code Orange or Red days. Code Green indicates that air quality is good, and we can keep it that way by biking, walking, and taking transit.

Clean Air Partners also provides a handy Forecast Widget that displays the current air quality rating and contains a tab for displaying the three day forecast. We've embedded the widget on the FABB home page.
I'm sorry, these are nice graphics and all, but I have several problems with this.

First of all, the air quality is just a forecast for the day, like the weather forecast. Sometimes the forecast is right, sometimes it isn't. I don't think we should be encouraging people to avoid outdoor activity based on a forecast. Some people work outside all day, putting on roofs or whatever, and you better believe these people aren't going to sit around inside with no pay just because someone calls a code red.

Second of all, it's one forecast for the entire metro area. If you're standing alongside traffic on Route 1 I'm sure the air quality will be worse than if you're taking a leisurely bike ride along the W&OD in Reston. (Side note: Where do people stand while they're waiting 30 minutes for the bus to show up?)

And, the little icons in each colored box seem to be, for the most part, good things to do no matter what the air quality is. Code green? Take transit! Code red? Take transit! And why do we have to wait until it's code red before we turn off lights we aren't using?

Of course, each person can decide for themselves what to do when the forecast comes out, but it seems like a convenient excuse to just sit around. Now, if you just had a heart attack and got released from the hospital on supplemental oxygen, then I withdraw my comments and cheerfully encourage you not to ride a century on a code red day.

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