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State lawmaker says bicycling is not good for the environment

Seattle Bike Blog: State lawmaker defends bike tax, says bicycling is not good for the environment

Posted on March 2, 2013 by Tom Fucoloro

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.

As for the transportation package, he said the amount of money that would end up going to bike lanes is higher than the amount raised by the proposed bike tax.

“You’re asking for a whole lot more back than what you’re going to put in,” he said (we responded to this point here).

UPDATE: Rep. Orcutt email Seattle Bike Blog Monday morning apologizing for his comments. Read his email here.

Here’s the full email: