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March 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Lawmaker apologizes for saying bicyclists pollute — by breathing

From Transportation Reporter Mike Lindblom

State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, shifted gears Monday morning, apologizing for telling a bike-shop owner last week that bicyclists create carbon pollution, simply by exhaling.

“First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles,” read Orcutt’s Monday email to Seattle Bike Blog.

The original comment about polluting bicyclists got Northwest cycling advocates steamed, and spread nationally over the weekend. Seattle Bike Blog crashed Monday morning under the demand of people trying to read more, says site founder Tom Fucoloro.

Orcutt made the remark as part of a message favoring a proposed $25 fee on new bicycles costing more than $500. The fee would help pay for state transportation facilities. Said Orcutt:

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

Such remarks are reminiscent of the remark by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

But on Monday morning, Orcutt followed up by e-mailing Seattle Bike Blog and The Seattle Times:

First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. 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 e-mail. My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint. In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize – both for bringing it up and for the wording of the e-mail.

Second, please understand that I have not proposed, nor do I intend to propose, any tax – and certainly not a carbon tax – on bicyclists. There is little in the Democrat [$10 billion transportation ballot measure] tax proposal that I support. However, the one aspect of the Democrat tax plan that has merit is their proposed $25.00 tax on the purchase of any bicycle $500.00 or more. I am willing to consider this because I’ve heard requests from members of the bicycle community that they want more money for bicycle infrastructure. The idea of bicyclists paying for some of the infrastructure they are using is one which merits consideration.

Since I have heard concerns about doing this via sales tax due to the impact on bicycle shops, I am very willing to work with the bicycle community to determine an appropriate way to enable bicyclists to pay for some of the bicycle-only lanes and overpasses. It is my intent to seek out your advocates in Olympia to see if there are other ways to accomplish this.

Again, I do apologize for the carbon line in the e-mail and any confusion it has created. I look forward to working on reasonable solutions to the problems cyclists are having with infrastructure.

Indeed, his hometown of Kalama has two miles of waterfront bike-pedestrian paths on the Columbia River, partly funded by state grants. As for carbon impacts, the food calories burned by a rider may well be equivalent to 650 miles per gallon, figures Todd Litman, of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: Seattle Bike Blod, State Rep. Ed Orcutt

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