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If you are thinking of riding your moped or motorcycle to the office on bike to work day—don’t: it doesn’t count.

Despite the fact that mopeds and other motorized scooters might seem more fuel efficient than a normal car (and to be fair, on average, they are more fuel efficient), according to EPA measurements (shown in the chart below) they actually pollute more carbon monoxide, ozone and nitric oxide than the typical automobile. In fact, some scooters may emit more of these toxins than  20 automobiles combined!

Courtesy of the EPA.

Courtesy of the EPA.

In some areas, these bikes are a real problem. A recent study found that in some cities, such as Bangkok, two-stroke scooters could contribute as much as 90 percent of all particulate matter. Even in the United States, they are a problem, such as in Los Angeles  where motorcycles and scooters account for only one percent of registered vehicles, yet create ten percent of smog-creating pollutants.

But before you throw away your scooter, or even recycle it; keep in mind that not all mopeds are the same. Two-stroke scooters, which feature a simpler engine and are much less prevalent in the United States, emit nearly double the pollutants as a four-stroke scooter. If you still can’t live without your moped, the EPA released some tips for reducing pollution, which include making sure that your bike is certified, not idling in traffic and leaving your moped in the garage to carpool to work instead.

And remember, a normal, non-motorized bike emits zero ozone into the air per mile, even when you add a bell.

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Nicole Levin is a rising senior at Harvard College where she studies government. She is an editor for the Harvard Crimson and writes for the Harvard Lampoon, a comedy magazine on campus. She is from Fairfield, California, home of the Jelly Belly Factory and her dog, Baby.

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