CITY cyclists are facing dangerous levels of pollution on popular commuter routes.

Areas including Hope Street and Charing Cross are pockets of bad air which could have a long-term impact on people's health.

The Evening Times, working with environ-mental charity Friends of the Earth, identified hot spots where levels of the dangerous particulate PM2.5 accumulate.

We joined campaigners for a cycle round the city centre using a pollution pack designed to measure the most dangerous type of pollution.

The World Health Organisation claims any exposure to PM2.5 is dang-erous and levels in Glasgow are currently much higher than recommended.

Last year the air monitoring station on Hope Street recorded pollution levels well above govern-ment recommended levels.

The Scottish Government has committed to an annual mean of 12 micrograms per cubic metre (¼g/m3 ) but, last year, the Hope Street station had an average level of 16.4 ¼g/m3, according to provisional data analysed by Friends of the Earth.

The charity's director Dr Richard Dixon said levels in Hope Street were "simply not good enough".

Data collected during a six-mile cycle showed major peaks of pollution in busy areas, while quieter areas with less traffic recorded much lower levels.

Levels of pollution were at their highest in queues of traffic. The major peaks in the study were at Hope Street, Argyle Street and crossing onto Sauchiehall Street at Charing Cross.

Dr Dixon said: "The data shows cyclists and people exposed to busy traffic are exposed to PM 2.5. Scien-tists have found these fine particles are the pollutants of most concern. This is dangerous for our health."

THE cycle route started in George Square before heading to Glasgow Green then back to the city centre.

It went up Hope Street and to Kelvingrove Park before going via Sauchie-hall Street to Renfield Street.

Dr Dixon described PM 2.5 as an "invisible killer" and urged the Government to change the law to force councils to slash its levels. Currently, the commitment to an annual mean of 12 ¼g/m3 is only a guideline which local authorities have no obligation to meet.

This type of pollution is responsible for the deaths of 29,000 people a year in the UK - equivalent to five people a day in Scotland dying early - according to the Committee on the Medi-cal Effects of Air Pollution.

People with pre-existing heart and lung problems, the elderly and children are especially vulnerable to the particles, which are small enough to cross through the lungs into the blood stream, affecting the heart and blood vessels.

DR Dixon said: "Pollution can affect cyclists, pedestrians and people in cars and we need urgent action to reduce the levels in hot spots in Glasgow.

"The last thing we want to do is put cyclists off."

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "The Hope Street monitor is deliber-ately at the kerbside of a busy road with an unusually high proportion of more polluting vehicles, such as diesel buses and taxis.

"Technical guidance on air quality monitoring is clear that it should not be used for direct compar-ison against the annual mean objective, as it does not represent relevant exposure."

The Scottish Government is working closely with the city council on the issue, a spokeswoman said.

She added: "Glasgow City Council has produced an air quality action plan containing a range of measures to deal with air pollution."