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Cyclists Do Not Emit More Carbon Than Cars, State Legislator Admits

Mar 5, 2013
Originally published on March 5, 2013 1:19 pm

Days after angering cyclists with his contention that people who ride bikes don't help pay for roads — and stating that "the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider," Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt has apologized for his words, and any confusion they created.

Bike shop owner Dale Carlson had written to Orcutt, who's on the House Transportation Committee, to say that a proposed $25 bike tax on many models was misguided and would harm bicycle stores that must compete with Internet merchants.

"People who choose to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car actively reduce congestion, save wear and tear on our roads and bridges, and reduce the state labor needed to patrol our highways," Carlson wrote. "Additionally, bicyclists produce fewer emissions and reduce healthcare costs through increased physical fitness."

Orcutt replied, "Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride." He noted that cyclists' heart rate and respiration go up significantly.

Within a week, his email was posted on the Cascade Bicycle Club site. Local cycling blogs picked up the issue; so did national media.

The Republican representative has now apologized for his remarks, saying that his take on cyclists' carbon emissions "was over the top" and shouldn't be part of the conversation.

But while Orcutt apologized, he also reiterated his view that cyclists should help pay for the infrastructure — bike paths, etc. — that they're seeking. To that end, he said he sees merit in Democratic legislators' "proposed $25.00 tax on the purchase of any bicycle $500.00 or more."

In the current legislative season, Orcutt has fought against plans to raise Washington's 37.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax. He has also moved to end the practice of periodically replacing car license plates, calling it "nothing more than an excuse for state government to get more money from the public."

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