Big-Time Backpedal—Lawmaker Retracts Claim That Bicycles Pollute

A short, four-mile bicycle trip keeps 15 pounds of pollutant out of the air we breathe.

What do you think damages the road the most? (Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images)

Mar 4, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He is particularly interested in politics and policy.

Talk about shifting gears.

Ed Orcutt, a Washington State Representative from the 20th district, has apologized for stating in an email that bicycling is bad for the environment. His original claim was that riders emit more carbon dioxide into the air because their breathing is heavy while they pedal.

“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.

In the much-maligned email, which was obtained by Seattle Bike Blog, Orcut was writing in favor of Washington state's proposed five percent tax on all bike sales:

“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… 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.”

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

There is no question that cars pollute more CO2 than bicyclists.

When it comes to damage, roads deteriorate over time and by the weight of a vehicle acting on the road. The average bicycle weighs 30 pounds. A Prius, the baby of cars, weighs almost 100 times as much (2,900 pounds). A Ford F150 can range from 6,500-7,500 pounds. But neither compares to a semi truck, which can be 20,000-80,000 pounds with full loads. So how much damage is a bicycle really doing?

If Washington were serious about a tax, they’d charge vehicle registration by weight, not attempt to tax bicyclists for their CO2 emissions.