(Reuters) – A Washington state lawmaker has apologized for telling a bike store owner, in a spat over a proposed bike fee, that bicyclists can cause pollution - just by breathing out carbon dioxide.
Ed Orcutt, a ranking Republican member of the state House of Representatives Transportation committee, said in an email exchange with a bike shop owner that drivers and bicyclists should both share the burden of preserving the roads they use.
"You claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike," Orcutt wrote to Dale Carlson, the owner of three bicycle shops in the Tacoma and Olympia areas who voiced concern that a proposed $25 fee on bicycle sales of $500 or more could hurt his business.
"But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration … Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclist are actually polluting when they ride," Orcutt wrote late last month.
On Monday, Orcutt hit the brakes and made a U-turn.
"My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint," Orcutt wrote in an email delivered to constituents. "In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize."
Orcutt, who has been a member of the Washington state House since 2002, said he supports the fee for bicycles to help pay for street infrastructure, but little else from a revenue package proposed by House Democrats two weeks ago that would raise roughly $9.8 billion over 10 years by raising taxes, among other proposals.
"The idea of bicyclists paying for some of the infrastructure they are using is one which merits consideration," Orcutt wrote. [more]
By Tom Fucoloro
2 March 2013
(Seattle Bike Blog) – Representative Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) does not think bicycling is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have “an increased heart rate and respiration.”
This is according to comments he made in an email to a constituent who questioned the wisdom of a new bike tax the legislature is considering as part of a large transportation package.
We spoke with Rep. Orcutt to confirm the email’s authenticity and to get further clarification.
“You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).
“You can’t just say that there’s no pollution as a result of riding a bicycle.”
He said the email, which he had not reviewed since he is away from from his computer for the day, must have come from a constituent who disagrees with him (UPDATE: Cascade has posted the full exchange, which was with Dale Carlson, owner of BikeTech in Tacoma).
“Somebody doesn’t like me, and that’s fine,” he said.
He also stands by his opinion that people who bike do not pay for roads when they ride.
“When you are riding your bicycle, tell me what taxes are being generated by the act of riding your bicycle,” he said. “Sales tax does not go into roads.”
That people who bike don’t pay for roads is demonstrably untrue. Most roads people bike on are paid for by counties and municipalities. In Seattle, gas taxes pay just four percent of the SDOT budget (as of 2009). Most of the rest comes from sources everybody pays, no matter how they get around. On a state level, gas taxes only pay for one quarter of the WSDOT budget. [more]