Must Read: Cycling is bad for the environment

A state representative in Washington claims that bikes are bad for the environment

A state representative in Washington has drawn the ire of cyclists everywhere with recent comments he made regarding the sport.

In an e-mail to a Tacoma, Wash. bike shop owner about a proposed bicycle tax, State Rep. Ed Orcutt came to the conclusion that cycling is bad for the environment because people exhale an increased amount of carbon dioxide when they’re pedaling on a bike.

“Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike,” Orcutt 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.”

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VeloNews reader Anthony Kassel wrote State Rep. Orcutt a letter on Monday addressing the story and copied us on the correspondence.

Orcutt responded later in the day:


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 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.

Representative Ed Orcutt