Legislator to small business owner: bicycling bad for the environment


3/8/13 UPDATE: We had a great conversation with Rep. Orcutt this week about his email, his position and more. 

3/4/13 UPDATE: Lawmaker apologizes for email saying cyclists’ breathing causes pollution, The Seattle Times



Today, we circulated a screen shot from an email exchange between State Rep. Ed Orcutt of the 20th District and a constituent about the proposed “bicycle tax” and noting that bicycling was bad for the environment due to all the exhaling of CO2. While I had received it from a trusted friend and ran with it, some folks asked to verify its authenticity, a good practice after recent hoaxes that have embarrassed the media (see: Manti Te’o).

I can confirm that the email is legit. Here are the original exchanges between Rep. Orcutt and small business owner Dale Carlson  of BikeTech in Tacoma:


---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: RE: No new bicycle tax
From:    "Orcutt, Rep. Ed" <Ed.Orcutt@leg.wa.gov>
Date:    Mon, February 25, 2013 9:59 pm
To:      Dale Carlson


I am not a fan of much in the House Transportation tax proposal nor of many tax proposals, but I have to admit I think there are valid reasons to tax bicycles. Think about this for a moment: Currently motorists are paying to use their cars on the roads while they are actually driving their cars. At the same time, they are paying for bike lanes because there is no gas tax -- or any transportation tax -- generated by the act of riding a bike on the roadways. So, if cars pay for the roads they are using, it only makes sense that bicyclists would also be required to pay for the 'roads' they use when they are actually biking on them.

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

I know, you own a car and drive so are paying gas tax -- but not while you are riding your bike. When you are driving your car and generating gas tax you are also driving on the roads so are only really paying for the roads when driving -- not while biking.

Sorry, but I do think that bicyclists need to start paying for the roads they ride on rather than make motorists pay.


Representative Ed Orcutt
20th Legislative District

Olympia Office:
408 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504

-----Original Message-----
From: Dale Carlson
Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2013 9:40 PM
To: Orcutt, Rep. Ed
Subject: NC: No new bicycle tax


TO:  Representative Ed Orcutt

FROM: Dale Carlson(Non-Constituent)

SUBJECT:  No new bicycle tax


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. Additionally, bicyclists produce fewer emissions and reduce healthcare costs through increased physical fitness. Therefore, it is unfair for bicyclists to subsidize the construction and maintenance of highways that they impact far less than the motorists. If anything, new bike purchases should earn a $25.00 tax credit because of the savings they provide to the state.

Not only do I believe that a bike tax is unfair in principle but the proposed amount is disproportionately large compared to vehicle excise taxes in the state. A tax of $25 on a $500 bicycle purchase is 5% of that sale. The vehicle excise tax in the proposed package for the state is 0.7%. The federal government even offers tax credits on electric vehicles, up to $7,500 depending on the value of the vehicle. It's absurd that Washington state plans on taxing bicyclists while such a credit system exists to promote energy efficiency. Bicycles are far more efficient even than electric cars. Bicyclists already pay substantial sales, property, and federal taxes which fund two-thirds of transportation spending in Washington. Bicyclists who own cars pay the same license tab and other car-related taxes even if they drive less.

This new tax would also hurt the bicycle industry in the state of Washington, an industry that already competes with internet vendors and bordering states with lower sales tax. Bicycle stores near the edges of our state have been impacted for years by the reduced sales tax in Oregon and Idaho. Residents would have 25 more reasons to purchase bikes outside of Washington should this proposal pass. In-state bicycle sales would also be lost to internet vendors based elsewhere which neither pay taxes in Washington nor employee residents of Washington. Surely the loss of tax revenue on in-state bicycle sales would offset the forecasted gains from the proposed tax.

Dale Carlson, Owner
Bike Tech
Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma

Thanks to Dale Carlson for speaking up.

>>>If you haven't already, join Dale by telling your Washington State legislators that they can do better on our transportation package. We're working hard in Olympia to make it better, and every voice counts!<<<

In case you're still thinking that people who ride bikes don't pay for roads, you need to read this and this and this and this, too.

Tom at the Seattle Bike Blog talked to Rep. Orcutt today to confirm that he does believe bicyclists are polluting the air through excessive exhaling.

Side note: I've heard reasons to slow down on a bike ride, but this is a new one for me.

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