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Rep. Orcutt says bicycle carbon emissions ‘not a point worthy of even mentioning’

In an email to Seattle Bike Blog this morning, State Representative Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) apologized for his email that appeared to claim that a person riding a bicycle emits emit more carbon dioxide than someone driving a car (see our previous story).

Here’s his full email:


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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.


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97 responses to “Rep. Orcutt says bicycle carbon emissions ‘not a point worthy of even mentioning’”

  1. Glad to see a follow up from Rep. Orcutt. This spread like wildfire over the weekend, and my office even had some good laughs (and discussion) about it this morning. This is good that other modes of transportation (besides the personal automobile) is getting so much attention.

    I’d bet that lots of people who ride bikes to get around Seattle and use “cycling infrastructure” would be more than happy to contribute (i.e. donate money) to get more cycling infrastructure built…but only if those contributions go directly back into cycling-only infrastructure. I’d gladly donate money for more non-motorized infrastructure.

    On the other hand, it’s very discouraging to “tax” someone again just for wanting to ride a bike for transportation. Imagine what would happen if people got a tax credit for biking!

    1. Contribute

      I’d like to see an equivalent of “kickstarter” being used for cycling-only infrastructure improvements. The very nature of kickstarter could help identify those projects that are of most worth to everyone. Boondoggles are not going to have popular support and it is going to be patently obvious to everyone. However when money is tight but there is popular support a political entity could support for the project by being willing to authorize it if funding came through by other means (this doesn’t cost government or the tax payer anything). If new taxing schemes were approved by the people then they could certainly be used to fund that project but it wouldn’t be a requirement. Right now it seems part of the problem is the monolithic nature of government involvement in these types of projects and the unwillingness to think there is any solution. The special interest politics game is crushing us and an extremely poor way to improve our quality of life when it comes to the trails and paths we ride on every day. It’s such a slow way to improve and I would like to improve the quality of my own life not just hope that it will be improved by the time my children grow up. There is no reason we can’t use what is working in other realms like kickstarter to improve our life here too. A system that provided much more flexibility for project management on individual projects, to the point it could free up government to basically authorize projects that “yes you can do this if the funding comes from a source other than x, y, and z tax revenues.” For example, if individual citizens and philanthropists were encouraged and allowed to contribute funds to specific initiatives especially in highly congested areas. Many times it would not just be the cyclists donating. Drivers could benefit by reduced congestion (more cyclists means fewer cars). Construction companies and developers might want to contribute goods and services to specific projects that help unlock or revitalize certain areas. Insurance companies might want to contribute because they see a dangerous intersection that is costing them a significant amount of money and isn’t changing because of government gridlock, or because they want to earn goodwill in the local community.

      1. Andres

        Interesting idea. I wonder if anyone’s tried kickstarter (or equivalent) for a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant..

    2. LWC

      No! We can’t assuage ignorance through capitulation.

      The notion that we need a direct tax on bicyclists to fund bicycle infrastructure is based on ignorance of reality. For example, in Seattle, less than 4% of our transportation budget is paid for by vehicle use fees. The remaining 96% is from property taxes, sales taxes, etc. A recent survey showed that over 3% of citizens bike to work regularly: that means that around 3% of the transportation budget is coming *directly* from the pockets of cyclists. Currently, less than 1% of SDOT’s budget goes toward bike infrastructure.

      Cyclists already pay. Cyclists already pay. Cyclists already pay.

      We can’t let ignorant politicians make us forget that fact.

      Cyclists already pay more than than their fair share, and asking for even more on top of that is completely inane.

      1. Pat

        Ha…your math is silly. Cyclists DO NOT pay already. Until you pay $0.37 cents per mile for every mile you ride, then you can say that.

      2. William

        Cyclists do pay, but it is towards a general fund, not earmarked for cycling infrastructure. A special tax would ensure that politicians attended to the particular needs of cyclists, rather than consider us second class vehicles.

      3. Robert

        @pat: so you’re saying if I drove an electric car I also couldn’t expect any consideration in road improvements because you’re driving a 1 mile per gallon car?

      4. Austin

        Your math is ABSURDLY bad. If 3% of roads are paid for by cyclists because 3% of people bike to work, that means that 97% of those taxes are paid by those who don’t bike to work, and we still have that 4% of the taxes that are paid through fuel taxes; for a whopping 104%! WOW! That’s a lot of taxes! [*eye roll*]

        Bad math aside, Cyclists are not putting ANYTHING into the pot for their actual use of the roads. They’re paying into the general fund like everybody else, but they’re not contributing for their use of the roads like everybody else.

        Whereas non-cyclists are paying into the general fund, as well as vehicle registration, fuel taxes, tire taxes, etc, etc, etc.

        If you want to put a vehicle on the road (regardless of the type) you should be required and willing to pay your fair share. If you don’t think it should matter, because most of the taxes building the roads come from the general fund, then you should be fighting for the repeal of the fuel tax.

        Otherwise, shut up and pay your fair share.

  2. John Murphy

    “The idea of bicyclists paying for some of the infrastructure they are using is one which merits consideration.”

    Has he not followed up on this enough to conclude that bicyclists do in fact pay for that infrastructure through their other taxes?

    1. Paul Klawinski

      It seems that, not only does he not know science, he does not know how the government, in which he serves, operates. He has not done himself any favors in his response.

      1. J. D. Kimple

        Ding ding ding! Here is the winner!

  3. I agree, Jeff. I also think it’s re more about where the ‘bike tax’ money would be spent. I’m more than happy to listen to ideas that would mean more money to supplement our meager allotment in the budget, but it still doesn’t seem to be an effective or reasonable tax. It makes far more sense to be subsidizing and increasing the appeal of such a beneficial mode of transportation instead of taxing it.

    1. Richard Erickson

      Quick, somebody get this guy oxygen, he’s going into the twilight zone. What a complete idiot. His rebuttals even make it worse.
      Atlanta, Georgia

  4. Sean Cryan

    It’s great that he responded, but I still find it unsettling that state and federal representatives have such poor understanding of funding mechanisms for roadways and bicycle infrastructure and this widely stated perception that those of us who use bicycle infrastructure don’t own and drive cars (and apparently don’t pay property taxes). It’s unfortunate that they don’t understand how this all works, but also disappointing because they have a public forum where they repeat their misunderstandings and their constituents take this as fact, further perpetuating many of the myths of cycling and cyclists. If they really don’t know how state and federal funding works, how can they set budgets and make decisions for the rest of us?

    1. Biliruben

      Set budgets? Isn’t that Tim Eyman’s job?

    2. And…this guy is the Ranlking Republican on the House Transportation Committee in Olympia?

      How did this happen?

  5. […] ← FamilyRide: Mapping our bike corrals Rep. Orcutt says bicycle carbon emissions ‘not a point worthy of even mentioning’ → […]

  6. Ken

    I am deeply concerned that an elected official can be so ignorant of the world they live in. Clearly the educational system has failed this person. In my humble opinion this person has demonstrated that he is not sufficiently competent for the office he holds. This situation is a testament to the very sad state of our government.

    1. Orv

      It’s a common right-wing anti-global-warming talking point: ‘If CO2 is a pollutant, are we all going to have to wear masks with catalytic converters on our faces? Har har.’ Sort of an argument from absurdity. I’m sure Rep. Orcutt thought he could get in a clever jab against both bicyclists and the global warming crowd with one fell swoop.

      What it ignores, probably willfully, is that unless you’re eating coal, the carbon you exhale is carbon that was absorbed from the atmosphere when what you’re eating was growing. (Or whatever fed what you’re eating, if you’re eating meat.) It’s not a net gain.

      1. Bigmontana

        Not a good argument…If oil came from the decaying remnants of plants and animals that died millions of years ago, then the carbon released by burning it was also absorbed from the atmosphere.

      2. jimspice

        BM: you, like Rep. Orcutt, just don’t get it. Yes, the operative word in “fossil fuel” is “fossil,” i.e. buried. Yes, it represents carbon that once flowed throughout the bio-sphere, but that was hundreds of millions of years ago, and the earth was much hotter then. When that carbon became sequestered deep underground in the form of oil, gas and coal deposits, it’s removal prompted a global cooling that made possible our unique development. If we re-release that carbon, temperatures will rise. Keep in mind that 99.9% of all human social and technological advancement has taken place since the end of the last ice age, and during that time, global temperatures have not varied beyond 1˚C on either side of today’s averages. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep the temperature in that range if at all possible?

      3. Phil

        Thank you, jimspice, for pointing out that CO2 per se is not causing global warming. It is the sequestered fossil carbon from the lithosphere being released into the atmosphere that has increased the CO2 levels over the past hundred years or so. It is disappointing that Rep. Orcutt doesn’t understand the science. Here’s a video presenting thousands of CO2 data points over the past 800,000 years:

  7. Michael Robertson

    I live in Portland where the bike lane infrastructure has made bicycling safer for these commuters but also for the drivers of motor vehicles. We have a healthier populace, lower pollution (even with all the carbon dioxide those bike nuts are spewing) and a better understanding of the needs of both groups that share the road. I think that tax credits for bicyclists are a much more beneficial model than adding new taxes on them and I would gladly pay for the improvements even though I don’t bike very often.

  8. Jables

    I’m pretty sure CO2 (carbon dioxide) is not a pollutant. Last I checked on Wikipedia, plants, algae, and cyanobacteria, as part of the carbon cycle use light energy to photosynthesize carbohydrate from carbon dioxide and water, oxygen is produced as a waste product, which we kind of need.
    Cars produce CO (carbon monoxide) as a waste product of engine combustion, which is poisonous to just about every living thing on the planet in large amounts. It can actually kill people.
    People riding bicycles produce some carbon dioxide as a waste product of respiration. This is beneficial to plant, algae and cyanobacteria, which is a good thing. People riding bicycles do not, however, produce carbon monoxide.
    About the tax on bicyclists for infrastructure. Are they assuming people who ride bikes don’t already contribute taxes toward the infrastructure? Are they saying bicyclists are purposely riding their bikes to avoid contributing?
    Bicycling, though a great alternative transportation, is usually considered a pastime or form of exercise. Very few have a lifestyle that use bikes as their only form of transportation.
    What’s next taxes on shoes for those that walk on the sidewalk?

    1. grh

      Actually, CO2 can be a pollutant at very high levels when causing global warming or acidification of the oceans. This designation as a pollutant allows the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions.

  9. Lizanne

    Hey can we also make pedestrians pay for taxes for foot paths? i’m sure a walking person pays no taxes at all, and breaths while doing it! polluting Bludgers! if they want walking trails and footpaths someone needs to pay for it.

  10. Kyle

    I’m an avid cyclist, but this guy’s argument actually does have merit (though I doubt he knows that.)

    Consider the following calculation:


    Average mpg in the US=17
    Average cost of a new car: 30,000
    Life of car: 11 years
    Average car mileage: 15,000/year

    Average life: 11 years (just guessing)
    Annual mileage=5,000 (20 mile commute)
    Miles/calorie=.028 (based on the 600 calories I burn/hour @17mph)
    Bike cost=$1,500
    Big Mac=600 calories for $4
    Both Big Macs and gas pollute equally per dollar spent, as does bike/car manufacture (ie resources used=$ cost)

    Car cost per mile: (Total Fuel Cost + Car Cost)/Total Mileage=($38,000+30,000)/165,000= 41 cents
    Bike cost per miles ($6,100+1,500)/55,000=14 cents per mile

    But now, let’s change that calculation to a Prius and my bike:

    Prius: ($16,500+25,000)/165,000=25 cents
    My bike: ($6,100+$8,500)/55,000=27 cents

    So, between my bike and my wife’s Prius, she is more environmental.

    Who says science can’t be fun?

    1. A

      What did you do to your bike that it only lasted eleven years? :(

      1. Kyle

        It got heavy, man! Needed more carbon!

        Seriously, that’s a guess. If you’re turning 5k miles/year stuff’s gonna wear out and get hard to replace. Or you’re just gonna want a new one.


      2. AlyCatNat

        With all due respect, I have to question your numbers, Kyle. My oldest bike was built in 1964 and my newest one was built in 1985, the only thing they have asked of me is chain lube, new tires and(rarely) new chains. I ride my commuter bike (1980 Fuji) to work every day, so it’s not like I’m not putting any miles on it. I think I’m doing a little better than even a Prius, which is good, because I sure can’t afford one.

      3. Gary

        I can relate to wearing out bicycles.

        I broke the frame on my ’78 in 86. That replacement broke in 2010, and that replacement broke in 2011 (but was repairable unlike the previous cracked steel frames.)

        In 2011, the last year I rode 5k miles, I rebuilt my wheels with new rims every 2.5k miles.. The grit on the road and my canti brakes just made concave buckets out them..

        Plus you forgot the high end clothes I bought for riding that last maybe 10 years with careful washing and few falls.

        Commuting is dam hard on bicycles.

        What you missed was the $60/month gym club that your wife needs to get her exercise. And the 2 hrs of lost time that she uses to commute and you get as exercise. You can factor that as 2hrs at your wages if you want.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      You forgot to add car insurance, car registration, parking and the cost for a driver to eat (only fair since you’re counting the food of the person on the bike).

      Here’s a more realistic driving cost calculator: http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html

      Also, I’d be more interested in cost per trip than cost per mile. Going by bike might mean you choose closer options for needs.

      And of course, there are the reduced health care costs, cheaper rent since you don’t need to pay for a parking spot (if living in an apartment that doesn’t include a space by default), and on and on…

      1. Kyle

        I’m only counting the extra food–ie my PowerTap says 1 hour at 190 watts=around 600 calories. Breathing, keeping my body at 98.6, etc. would have to be included on both sides of the equation and therefore they cancel out.

        Total economic costs are very hard to determine and would make this calculation a lot less pithy. Even reduced healthcare costs. Are you sure? What if healthier people live longer and end up in a nursing home for 3 years instead of 2? A guy dropping dead of a heart attack at 40 is super cheap health-care wise.

        Anyway, just an interesting thought process. Environmentalism should be a science, not a religion IMHO. We should have to back up our assertions just like everyone else.

      2. Gary

        Well exercise does appear to cut health care costs before you are at the nursing home level…

        Wellness programs
        Center for disease control

    3. Bob

      The thing about science is that it goes like this: You make a hypothesis or model which predicts something, then you test whether your model can predict observations. If the model doesn’t predict the observations, you throw away the model and try again.

      The model you provide predicts that driving is cheaper. Is that supported by observations? Does somebody who drives less and rides more end up losing money? Not even close, in fact it is the opposite and by orders of magnitude.

      1. Kyle


        You make the statement that biking is cheaper, but then don’t back it up.

        Mathematics isn’t tested in the same way as, for instance, physics. If I say 2+2=4, I don’t really have to create an experiment to prove it.

        But this is even worse–it’s economics. The dismal science indeed…


        PS: To be clear, my calculation showed that riding is much cheaper. Only if you’re stupid enough to pay the better part of ten grand on a bike and compare it to a Prius do things get close. But they do get close–numbers don’t lie. Usually…

    4. Gary

      “Both Big Macs and gas pollute equally per dollar spent”


      While cows emit methane and the farming practice to make beef is harmful, gasoline is 100% release of sequestered carbon and a cow eating grass is not. (It’s not 0% but I can guarantee that it’s not 100%)

      So the act of conversion of the energy of eating a big mac is less CO2/CO than that of burning gasoline.

      1. Kyle


        According to the Sierra Club, it takes 1 gallon of gas to make 1 pound of beef. So your, choice may be a false one. Of course, I could eat all those weird grains like my wife, but then life wouldn’t be worth living ;-).

        Aly and Gary: I was riding a ’99 Merlin until I took delivery of my new rig a week ago. I admire your industriousness. Dealing with 9 speed parts, 1″ head tubes etc. got to be such a pain. And then there was all the fun my friends made of me for riding a “metal bike.” I held out, though, until one of my riding partners felt so sorry for me he offered me one of his unused pro-deals.

        Aly, I wish I had your luck with chains. I go through 2/year. And I just discovered swapping my new $*#*%& 11 speed is just slightly more complicated than changing the head gasket on my wife’s Prius…


      2. Gary

        I can’t find the amount of “beef” in a big mac but wikipedia lists the mass as 214g which is 1/2 lb, for 550 calories. So that’s a 1/2 gal of gasoline (Sierra club equivalent)

        My wife got me eating all those weird grains. Turns out they aren’t all bad.

    5. The dollars-to-environmental-damage correlation is one that breaks down at the margins. An $8500 bike doesn’t actually cause 17 times the environmental damage as a $500 one — you’re paying for a lot of profit margin because of smaller production runs, flashy design, etc. The cost of buying a Prius is another odd margin case. The drivetrain of the Prius affords it some government subsidies, its batteries have concentrated environmental costs, and if I recall correctly Toyota still takes fairly low profit margins on it. More rigorous estimates tend to show that building a hybrid car has a significantly bigger environmental footprint than building a conventional car, and that this is made up for over years of driving by greater in-city fuel-efficiency. A Prius replacing a Crown Vic as a taxi is a massive environmental win; replacing a Camry as a daily-driver it’s a small win over many years; replacing a small car used only occasionally or an efficient freeway cruiser used mostly on the freeway it’s likely a loss.

      Another thing… setting distance equal is totally wrong when talking about social choices. The major forces behind low density (and therefore longer commute distances) in suburban office complexes are car parking and road congestion. Joel Garreau’s book Edge City explores exurban auto-based development and regularly cites the magic number of 0.4 FAR, which is Floor-to-Area Ratio (“Floor” meaning office floor space, “Area” being total land area). If everyone drives to work (a good first-order approximation in many areas) exceeding 0.4 FAR by much requires structured parking and expensive upgrades to the local road network. On the other hand, in places where few people drive routinely much greater densities are possible, and closer use mixture is more desirable (because living near commercial development doesn’t mean living next to the freeway), allowing much shorter average trip lengths. Garreau emphatically defends low-density development and auto-dependence (as of the writing of that book he believed we’ll make driving sustainable), but makes no bones about it: more cars = longer commutes.

      1. Kyle

        Al: You’re getting way more in depth than my fun little calculation intended.

        Agree on the price vs impact thing. It was just an easy assumption. As you point out, you can make the same assumption for a car–ie a Honda vs a Porche. It’s why I always tell my wife that my smoke belching ’52 Chevy pickup is more environmental than her late model Prius…

  11. Vancouver WA

    Now if only Judy Clibborn (D-41st) would be so good as to withdraw her bike tax proposal that Orcutt is still supporting.

    1. Pat

      Why? We live in a user-pays environment. You use the roads, you pay for that use.

      You may say you’re already paying, but everyone else is paying, but then paying more. Lets say we both work at the same office, have the same valued house, spend the same on everything. Only difference is you use a bike to get to work, I use a car. You see, we pay the same amount of taxes that goes into the infrastructure, except you don’t pay as much for the roads as I do. Shouldn’t you pay more for that use?

      Ans: Yes. So get used to the idea that a tax is coming. Focus your efforts to make sure it goes into the roads and not siphoned off.

      And don’t think that because you make a personal choice to attempt to “be green” entitles you to freebies or exemption from a user-pays approach. It doesn’t.

      1. John Murphy

        Pat – here are some of the many ways your argument breaks down.

        We do not pay the same amount of taxes to build roads. You pay a specific set aside, that provides four percent of the budget, but the rest come from general funds. As such, the person who pays most for the roads in Seattle is probably Bill Gates. Is that fair? He probably drives less than you. If you would like to go to an all gas tax model, there are probably a lot of people who would be very happy to join in that argument.

        But then how do we tax cyclists who don’t buy gas? How much to tax?

        When you drive your car, you beat the crap out of the roads. A cyclist could ride on the roads forever and they would only wear out due to weather.

        When you get to your destination, you are parking in a $50,000 parking spot. I bring my bike into the building, or at worst lock it up to a $1000 bike rack.

        Limited access highways. Bikes prohibited. Yet the current system I pay for roads I am prohibited from using.

        If we wanted to fully pay for the roads based on use – it cannot simply be “how many miles I used the road”. It is “how much did my usage cost”. And if we use that accurate model – it will not be very pretty for your bottom line. Think twice about what you ask for…

      2. merlin

        Your hypothetical person who drives a car pays a little more for roads than I do, since I ride a bike. But almost ALL of the money Hypothetical Person pays for roads actually benefits HER. Very little of the money I pay for roads benefits ME – the vast majority of my financial contribution to roads benefits Hypothetical Person. At the same time, my use of the dangerous, poorly-designed roads causes very little damage to the roads compared to Hypothetical Person’s SUV. I am already paying my fair share, thank you very much.

      3. Vancouver WA

        38% of WSDOT funds come from road user fees (gas tax, license & registration, tolls). The other 62% comes from various other taxes which we all pay whether or not we drive a motor vehicle. The amount I use the roads on my bike is way more than covered by that split, in fact non-drivers are subsidizing drivers. Pat, if you’re a driver, please pony up, pay your share and stop leaning on bike riders for your welfare.


        some more refs:

      4. Beau

        I kind of agree. Like it or not our govt is relying on user fees to augment their fiscal choices. I had this same reaction when the park system implemented the discover pass. I already paid for the parks, why should I have to pay more? Parks are important to me so I buy the pass. Our bike infrastructure here is continuing to expand which is a good thing. If a user fee will lead to improvements then great. Let’s do it.

      5. Rhonda Lee Starr

        Pat: It’s a myth that drivers are paying more to use the roads than cyclists. As you recognize, we pay the same in infrastructure. That is 99% of what goes into the roads. The kicker is that your car imposes over 100X the amount of wear and tear on the pavement/concrete which accelerates the replacement schedule. If there were only bicycles on the road, replacement would be every 40-50 years.

  12. Paul T

    Still passing as an a=hole…..it is Democratic tax bill…not the standard Republican slur of “Democrat tax bill.”

    The guy is a foolish clown. Not worth the carbon dioxide.

  13. Fnarf

    Orcutt is still wrong.

    People in Seattle pay a fortune into the state tax coffers that we never get back, for roads and everything else. King County gets $0.61 back on every tax dollar taken. Orcutt is from Cowlitz, which gets $1.47 back for every dollar they put in.

    A TON of that $ is for highways; his own town, Kalama, wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the damn highway THEY got but WE paid for.

    There is, in fact, a freeloader in our midst. It is not Seattle cyclists. It is Ed Orcutt and his constituents.

  14. Fred

    He totally missed the point that cycling makes you fitter, thus lowering your resting heart rate. This means that when you’re not on a bike you’re producing LESS CO2 emissions than those who are less fit.

    So 1 hour of cycling per day could mean 23 hours of lowered CO2 emissions.

    1. Tim Nelson

      As much as I agree that this guy is an idiot, you are wrong.

      Heart rate is irrelevant. Getting regular exercise raises your metabolic rate (increased fitness) so by being fit you are producing more CO2. Bottom line: assuming your weight is stable, your CO2 emissions are linearly proportional to your caloric intake.

  15. kar

    This is infuriating: “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 just more lying.

  16. Bike lanes and bike overpasses and pretty much every kind of expensive bike infrastructure is only necessary because of the highways. Even when they’re in place the conditions for cycling, walking, and transit are worse than they were before the highway. Increased travel distances, increased speeds and danger from cars, lower-density, use-separated developments — these are the debts the state has racked up against cyclists. A few lanes, a few overpasses won’t pay them back.

    But, you know, in the spirit of compromise and moving forward, I’d pay a bike tax. I’d pay a bike tax if it went toward removing freeways.

    1. Erik Busse

      Hi Al,

      I have made the same argument but at the same time feel that it wouldn’t quiet the critics, who despite years of trying to make the point that cyclists do in fact pay their fair share, still can’t be convinced that they are somehow martyrs and cyclists free riders.

  17. joe cipale

    ed orcutt is/has been an idiot as long as I have lived in SW Washington. He actually makes other tea party members look intelligent.

  18. Thor

    NO, cyclists should NOT pay for roads. We should be subsidized by auto drivers. Why? Because they benefit from our NOT driving and crowding the roads!

    I took transportation planning classes in school. There is a level at which steady, rapid traffic flow collapses into stop-and-go hell when you add just a FEW cars. Get rid of those few cars by putting their drivers on bikes, and you won’t have traffic jams.

    This is why it’s also worth having the carpool lanes–it helps ALL the drivers. Mr. Orcutt doesn’t complain about them (well, maybe he would….) but carpool lane users are “not paying their fair share” either. But carpooling makes traffic less bad even for the twits that insist on driving solo day after day after day.

  19. Spenceey

    I’d be interested to know how long a strip of cycle path or infasturcture lasts compared to the same for roads.

    They need looking at each year – cycle paths I’d argue every 5 years at a maximum due to the lesser loads passing over them.

    More and more people will be turning to bicycles, even more so in the UK.

  20. Arcturus

    This should be an automatic election loss for this guy next time around. With such a clear look into his limited reasoning abilities and intelligence, it should be an automatic ejection, no matter what party you are in.

  21. […] UPDATE: Orcutt apologized at the Seattle Bike Blog for his comments on polluting cyclists. […]

  22. Running for the Hills

    Not sure how things are in Seattle but in Ohio we have many bike lanes that are also used by Joggers. So when does the Running Tax or Sneaker tax hit? And talk about CO2 emissions, they are worse than a bikers.

  23. […] in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider,” Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt has apologized for his words, and any confusion they […]

  24. A

    Im not sure which is worse, this bfe politician or the fact that the Seattle bike community is continuing to clutch pearls, for days, that a bfe politician a hundred and fifty miles away is ignorant about something, particularly bikes.

  25. Gooner

    You sure this guys in Washington? Sounds more like the idiots we have here in Kansas.

    1. Arcturus

      It must be contagious, because Wisconsin is loaded up with them too.

  26. […] UPDATE: Orcutt apologized at the Seattle Bike Blog for his comments on polluting cyclists. […]

  27. […] “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. […]

  28. […] in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider,” Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt has apologized for his words, and any confusion they […]

  29. […] in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider,” Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt has apologized for his words, and any confusion they […]

  30. David B

    To Ed’s point “I know, you drive a car so you pay gas tax — but not while you are riding your bike.” When you park your car in a non-metered residential area on the road, you are not paying gas tax but you are still using the road. If you drive 1 hour a day and park in the road for 23, you are paying gas tax only 1/23 of the time you are actually using the road. At least when I am commuting by bike, I am always actually using the road for transportation as opposed to using it for car storage. I don’t get to park my bike in the road with exception of the handful of bike corrals.

  31. For a nice argument on why cyclists are actually subsidizing motorists, see:
    Who Owns the Road Anyway
    “One comparison in Litman’s report shows that while an average household’s general taxes are several hundred dollars per year, the typical bike commuter can actually end up over-paying $252 per year for the privilege while his neighbor the motorist enjoys a subsidy of $176 for the year.” (figures from 2003).

  32. […] In fairness to Orcutt, he soon issued a retraction: […]

  33. Todd

    Nice work Tom. Way to stay on this clown.

  34. The most important scientific point here is being entirely overlooked.

    A cyclist, the food she eats, the CO2/methane she emits, and the CO2/methane her decaying body will emit are part of the planet’s biosystemic carbon cycle. All will be completely recycled during her lifetime.

    The CO2 a car emits represents new carbon added to the cycle – carbon which has been trapped underground in oil deposits for millions of years. That is the problem. There is no true “carbon footprint” left by cyclists or any other biological processes.

  35. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  36. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  37. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  38. Benn S


    1. Benn S



      1. Emily


  39. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  40. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  41. […] back down fr&#959m h&#1110&#1109 bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” attack. In &#1072n email t&#959 Seattle Bike Blog, h&#1077 wrote, “First &#959f &#1072&#406&#406, &#406&#1077t m&#1077 […]

  42. […] would eventually back down from his bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In an email to Seattle Bike Blog, he wrote, “First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line […]

  43. […] car drivers due to “increased heart rate and respiration.” Orcutt later backed down, Seattle Bike Blog reports, calling his statement “over the top” and “not one which should enter […]

  44. […] Orcutt then followed up with the community to acknowledge how scientifically bankrupt his point was, but that bicyclists should pay for the bikes-only road improvements they […]

  45. […] back down fr&#959m h&#1110&#1109 bizarre “bike riding produces pollution” diatribe. In &#1072n email t&#959 Seattle Bike Blog, h&#1077 wrote, “First &#959f &#1072&#406&#406, &#406&#1077t m&#1077 […]

  46. […] this story swiftly made the rounds and appeared on major news outlets. Equally swiftly, Orcutt apologized for his obviously preposterous statement, and acknowledged that bicycles do not emit more CO2 than […]

  47. […] has taken back his “over the top” words against cyclists in the state. In an apology written to Seattle Bike Blog earlier this week, Orcutt admits that his claim that a person riding a bicycle emits more carbon […]

  48. […] of all places, a ruckus arose earlier this year when a representative was misinterpreted to suggest bicyclists pay a carbon tax for […]

  49. […] Representative Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) said in an email to constituents. […]

  50. Agustin Goba

    Using Mr. Orcutt’s logic, anyone using mass transit regularly (trains, buses, etc.) is a freeloader who should be paying a higher tax.

    The ignorance and lack of logic he demonstrates are a large part of why the number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans is down to 25%.


  51. Emily

    Everyone forgets about one big important thing with cyclists versus cars on the road: BICYCLES DON’T DAMAGE THE PAVEMENT! Once the road is built, the only maintenance required would come from tree roots pushing up the asphalt, or the ground freezing and expanding causing cracks in the winter. Cars and trucks ruin the roads all the time. Cyclists on affect dirt and gravel trails when they’re wet. I do think there should be some way for cyclists to pay for cycling-specific infrastructure, but to have to help pay for the maintenance of the roads that we share with cars but are not tearing up like they do is outrageous.

    When it comes to repairing off-road trails it’s generally organizations and volunteers(usually people that frequent the trails) that do the work, not the city.

  52. […] this story swiftly made the rounds and appeared on major news outlets. Equally swiftly, Orcutt apologized for his obviously preposterous statement, and acknowledged that bicycles do not emit more CO2 than […]

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