GOP Lawmaker: Bicycles Pollute Worse Than Cars
Washington state Rep. Ed Orcutt takes a stab at science
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2013 3:40 PM CST
This July 28, 2011 photo shows bicyclists on the Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland, Md. The passage is a 141-mile ride from Homestead, Pa., near Pittsburgh, to Cumberland in Western Maryland.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(Newser) – All that sweaty cycling can kick up a lot of carbon dioxide—right? So said House Republican Ed Orcutt in an email as he defended a bike tax proposed for Washington state, reports the Seattle Bike Blog. Writing a constituent, Orcutt wrote that bicyclists emit more CO2 than 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 into the conversation regarding bicycles." But this slice of his original email is still worth the read:

"Also, you claim that it 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 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." Click on the Seattle Bike Blog to go deeper into the bike-tax debate, or see BikePortland's comparison of CO2 emissions from bicyclists and other modes of transportation.

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Showing 3 of 153 comments
Mar 6, 2013 4:51 PM CST
I also thing the CO2 comments were stupid. But since we're in the bicycle debate... I agree that bicycles should be better regulated right down to lighting, license plates and taxes. Why? Because I see dozens of bicycles every day tearing down streets and not stopping at red lights, stop signs or for crosswalks or pedestrians. In our state and city, bicycles have the same right to the streets as cars, and additionally they can use the sidewalks. But they are rarely held accountable for obeying laws. I've NEVER witnessed a bicyclist actually stopped by a cop, even when the cop is right there waiting at the red light or stop sign, the rider just whipped through, but perhaps it does happen if the cop isn't too lazy. Although I once saw a police car turn on the siren and go to follow the bike, but when the rider saw it, he furiously pedaled down a pedestrian walkway, then wrong way on a one-way street, and escaped. I'm sure the cop didn't try to chase as the danger to person and property was higher than the simple ticket and slap on the wrist the rider would get. Of course if the bike had a license plate the city could have caught up with him, probably. They can also use the main traffic lanes when there are 3 foot wide bike-only lanes, even when they are slowing and blocking traffic. They frequently ride against the traffic in the bike lanes, and it's pretty difficult for a police vehicle to safely turn on a dime to catch them. I never see them stopped or ticketed for running red lights and stop signs, and that's pretty dangerous. If a driver hits them, even if the bicycle is negligent, the driver will harbor guilt, and it's all because of selfish bicyclists. And those paved bike lanes and trails are usually paid for by roads funds which are from gas taxes and car licensing, which they don't pay either of. And as an additional nuisance, many cyclists use a super-bright strobe as a headlamp. The problem with a strobe is that on a dark street, in moderate traffic, they look from a distance like an emergency vehicle's strobe. Twice I have done my usual glance in the mirrors when a strobe caught my attention, and it appeared as though an emergency vehicle was approaching in traffic a few blocks back, in the jumble of headlamps. Since I couldn't continue looking back, and ignoring traffic ahead, I turned on my signal and pulled to the right to wait for the emergency vehicle to pass. in two cases I heard pounding and cursing at the rear of my car, because the strobe was actually a speeding bicycle just a few hundred feet back when I first saw it, and the perspective of the lower strobe, on their head, appeared to bee on top of and between the headlights coming from behind. i almost killed or injured a bicyclist, because of their stupid use of a strobe. I bicycle often, although not at night due to the inattention, even in daytime, of many drivers, and I drive constantly with care for bicycles and motorcycles, constantly paying extra attention when there are bikes anywhere withing my view, so don't take it that I'm anti bikes. I am PRO-responsible cycling. I've even hadf my share of close calls on two wheels, when on bycicles or my motorcycle, was cut off by cars turning left and not yielding. But I felt a sense of instant joy once when a big SUV cut me off with less than a car length, causing me to skid and swerve to not be hit. But, two cars behind the turning SUV was a city cop on...a police bike...who saw the whole thing. She gave me a friendly wave and nod as she turned to chase and pull the driver over. Although I was still shaking for five minutes at the prospect of being killed. In my opinion and experience cyclists who think a white strobe is making them more noticeable are just plain stupid. Maybe oncoming cars see them better, but no driver is able to constantly stare in their rear-view mirror if the bike is mixed in with traffic, in the traffic lanes, as the glare from car headlamps obscures the actual dark bike and rider beneath it whether in front of, or in with cars and trucks. I think flashing white strobes should be unlawful for bicycles, just as they already are for autos, front or rear, unless that are bona-fide emergency vehicles. All bikes should pay for, and display, license plates, so that police and others can identify and report dangerous and illegal cycling, so as to remove selfish, ignorant and foolhardy bicyclists from the road, just like we try to do with drunk drivers. They are equivalent in my mind, although the cyclists are more dangerous to themselves. The scars of a responsible, legal, auto or motorcycle driver after hitting and possibly killing a cyclist, must be deep and long-lasting. I saw an photo once of a circle of progressively revolving,chasing, bright multi-color LED lights, I think 200-300cm in diameter (just the outside circle), that when mounted on a bicycle, appeared to oncoming, and in rear-view mirrors, as a distinctive symbol of a bicycle wheel turning, and couldn't be mistaken for any vehicle headlights, or anything else legal to use. I liked that, and something like a rotating white, or multi-color circle should be the only thing on the front and red, rotating circle on the rear of a bike besides the utility headlamp on the front. NO STROBES! Can a responsible (and environmentally friendly) cyclist really and truly say this is wrong, to expect other cyclists to be held to safe and accountable cycling and commuting?
Mar 6, 2013 11:48 AM CST
Ed, Wake up man. I'm a conservative but you made us look stupid on this one. The only way you add to the CO2 in the air is if you take it from a source in which it is bound such as oil or wood and release it into the air. (In both cases it's usually by burning.) The CO2 you breath out comes from the air and is returned to the air without adding to the amount that's in the air. This is as stupid as the redneck that spoke at an environmental impact meeting in Brewster, WA (Your beautiful state) regarding a dam on the Columbia River. He said, "...and besides that, the dams are taking all the electricity out of the water." I can only hope he wasn't speaking as a conservative.
Mar 5, 2013 2:07 PM CST
Americans cannot win for losing. We bike ride to save gas, decrease the number of vehicles on the road, save time and be HEALTHY! But now we 'sweat' too much and exhale out too much CO2!!!!! What other crazy stuff will come up next?