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State Representative says cyclists should be taxed for “emissions”

Ed Orcutt

Think biking to work is good for the environment? Think again, according to Washington state Rep. Ed Orcutt.

Orcutt wrote in a recent email that bicyclists should be taxed due to the greenhouse emissions they cause while riding.

The Republican who represents Kalama wrote in an email that he supports the inclusion of bicycles in the Washington House Transportation tax proposal, even though Orcutt said he’s “not much of a fan” of the proposal in general.

His “valid reasons” are that automobile drivers pay a tax to use the road, but not people who use the bicycle lanes on these roads.

Orcutt then wrote about the environmental impacts of riding a bike, and that’s where it all goes downhill.

“Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike, he wrote. “But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.”

That’s not altogether untrue, but certainly overblown. Bicyclists emit about one ounce of carbon dioxide per mile, while cars emit three-quarters of a pound per mile, which includes manufacturing, according to an analysis by the European Cyclists Federation.

The Representative issued a retraction via email on Wednesday.

“First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an email which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community,” he said, according to Reuters. “It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles. Although I have always recognized that bicycling emits less carbon than cars, I see I did a poor job of indicating that within my email.”

If the $10 billion Democrat-introduced transportation proposal passes, the bike sales tax would add $25 on top of bikes costing $500 or more, in addition to the sales tax. Projections show this fee would only bring in $1 million in revenue during the next 10 years.

What’s next — will the Washington state government begin taxing pedestrians who use the roads, too?