Special gravel coverage

WA legislator: “Cyclists’ increased respiration” leads to air pollution – UPDATED

Posted by on March 2nd, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Rep. Ed Orcutt thinks that “bicyclists
are actually polluting when they ride” because,
“the act of riding a bike results in greater
emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.”

A high-ranking Washington legislator has added insult to injury in his support for a bike tax by claiming that bicycling is not environmentally friendly because people who ride bikes pollute the air when they breathe.

An email that surfaced online today from Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) outlines his position on the transportation tax recently proposed by Democrats in the Washington legislature (read update below for source of the email). As we shared a few weeks ago, part of the tax package includes a tax on the sale of bicycles. Rep. Orcutt is staunchly opposed to taxes of any kind and is even opposed to the gas tax increases in this legislation; but in an email dated February 25th, Orcutt expresses his support for the bicycle tax provision. Most of his argument is not terribly surprising: He believes only people who drive pay for the roads, “So it only makes sense that bicyclists would be required to pay for the ‘roads’ they use.”

But in his email (full text below) that was posted to Twitter this morning by Seattle resident Astrid Rial and has been authenticated by Seattle Bike Blog he writes, “bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride” because, “the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.”

Here’s the entire text of Orcutt’s email:

“I am not a fan of 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 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 is 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 the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.

I know, you own a car and drive so you 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 while 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.


It does not appear that Orcutt’s pollution theory is tied to his support of a bike tax; but it’s troubling nonetheless.

Rep. Orcutt is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, so he could hold some sway in the larger debate over this tax proposal.

UPDATE, 2:52 pm: Turns out the email was originally circulated by Cascade Bicycle Club. They’ve posted the full backstory.

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  • Goats March 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Cyclist use more are per minute than a person walking but we suspect that the distance travelled per minute more than negates this and actually cyclists use LESS air than pedestrians to get to work.

    Some clever human should know the answer to this we are sure, but obviously it is not this guy.

    We love you humans (even the dumber ones).



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    • longgone March 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      If we do in fact produce less Co2 than peds, I wish to only be taxed for milage on accents. I can hold my breath for nearly two blocks at a time on flat roads with a mild cadence. In addition, I think one could ride for a mile or more downhill without breathing. We should have a sliding scale for Vo2 max intake if Rep. Orcutt is acurate in his science.

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      • longgone March 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        oops, typed too fast! Two mistakes there. sorry.

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    • Christian March 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

      I found a quote from the article in Scientific American that Steve Jobs referred to in his “The computer is a bicycle for our minds”-video.

      Apparently its from the december issue of 1972:

      “When one compares the energy consumed in moving a certain distance as a function of body weight for a variety of animals and machines, one finds that an unaided walking man does fairly well (consuming about .75 calorie per gram per kilometer), but he is not as efficient as a horse, a salmon, or a jet transport. With the aid of a bicycle, however, the man’s energy consumption for a given distance is reduced to about a fifth (roughly .15 calorie per gram per kilometer). Therefore, apart from increasing his unaided speed by a factor of three or four, the cyclist improves his efficiency rating to No. 1 among moving creatures and machines.- Stuart S. Wilson, Scientific American (1973)”

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  • dr2chase March 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    And I suppose it’s “intemperate” to call this guy out for being the d*mbf*ck that he is.

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    • was carless March 3, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Truly, this man can take d*mbf*ckery to an entirely new level.

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      • Ron March 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

        You would think so, but every few weeks another Tea Partier makes a statement changing the fundamental laws of sceibnce and physics. I am looking forward to the next one.

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  • patrickz March 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    …that’s why I never smoke when I ride —why worsen the damage?

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  • Tacoma March 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for your efforts to expose and fight ignorance. My donation is on its way.

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  • Tanner March 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    best laugh in days

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    • John Lascurettes March 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      I’d laugh, or more likely cry, but the sound would be muffled right now with my face buried in my palm.

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  • AzZenCyckist March 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I think you can kiss the “bike tax idea” goodbye. This guy has just united the opposition better than anyone else could. Thanks Ed, for your enlightened comments!

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  • are March 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    in theory the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans is part of a closed system, but that system would not be called upon to support eight or nine billion humans were it not for the exploitation of stored carbon. to the extent the cyclist is sustaining her respiration from locally grown foods, and to the extent the frame and componentry on the bike is recycled, she is not adding to the problem. but outside those exceptions, we are all contributing to the problem. motorists moreso, of course, because they are literally burning stored carbon, but all of us in some degree.

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  • Jolly Dodger March 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Years ago a study was done overseas that proved lung capacity and the ability to metabolize oxygen was increased after ingesting cannabis (marijuana) – … should there be a law requiring cyclists to minimize CO2 impact in ‘any way’ possible? I’d rather not quit riding to save the planet…even if no new taxes are ever created again. God, what a dumb ass. Can’t even believe we have no way of gauging a candidates actual intelligence before we elect them.

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  • Tom March 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm


    Your arguments are as absurd as the politicians (who, I think was making a wisecrack as opposed to an argument). ” As explained here, when we breath out carbon dioxide we are simply recycling it back to the earth.”

    In the link it states that ” All the carbon in our body comes either directly or indirectly from plants, which took it out of the air only recently.” As opposed to the carbon from vehicles burning fossil fuels that came from where. Let’s think, where do those dang fossil fuels come from – oh, right, plants.

    Our education systems is a mess…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks Tom. I’ve taken out that portion of the story because I don’t want to derail this into an argument over GHG emissions and such. You’re right, I may not have had that argument just right and I should be more careful before weighing into such matters.

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      • Tom March 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm

        Kudos to you for staying focused. On that point, what is the argument then, that cyclists should NOT be taxed ? Or that the Congressman made a stupid comment (which is no surprise on either side of the aisle) ?

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        • Alan 1.0 March 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

          Tom, do you ride a bicycle? Do you pay taxes? I don’t know any bicyclists who don’t pay taxes (exept a few kids).

          If your question is more about how our roads are already payed for by all users, try this thread: http://bikeportland.org/forum/showthread.php?t=3785

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        • Concordia Cyclist March 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm

          “what is the argument then, that cyclists should NOT be taxed ?”

          I think you are asking the wrong question, Tom. It should be directed at HOW much should riders/drivers be taxed because of the fact that auto drivers are heavily subsidized in this area well beyond that of cyclists. Frankly, as a bike rider I’d expect a refund for lack of wear and tear on roads if I’m held to the same taxation standard as auto drivers. (And , yes, I have a car and drive. Just not much.)

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    • are March 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      as i pointed out elsewhere on this thread, the difference is that the plants from which automobiles derive carbon have been stored outside the cycle for millions of years, and are now being released all at once.

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    • El Biciclero March 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      Well, as ‘are’ mentions, yes, fossil fuels come from plants, but those plants died over a span of millions of years–millions of years ago. They accumulated. Have you compared the biomass that went into the creation of all the fossil fuel that existed before we discovered it and the total living biomass that exists on earth today? I haven’t, but I have an idea which one would be greater. We’re making $1000.00 withdrawals from an account that was built up with penny deposits. We’re returning all the carbon from the dinosaurs’ environment to our current environment. What was the climate like back then?

      The key in what it sounds like Jonathan has removed from the article is the word “recently”.

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    • Christian March 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

      I’m not sure that’s correct. AFAIK the fossile fuel base, eg oil, is carbon monoxide bound to the soil. Meaning its not really a part of the active eco system until its freed, eg burned in a car.

      Whereas the carbon monoxide from humans is actually still a part of the active eco system of today, and thus poses less strain on the environment.

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  • K'Tesh March 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    How many people voted this moron in? It is a sad thing to say about our neighbor to the north.

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  • Tom M March 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    We need to educate people that the Tea Party, Faux News, and Roger Ailes are not their friends. BTW Ed Orcutt is a member of the Tea Party. This is what you get for electing the 1% cronies.

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    • Tom March 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      now, that was a stretch.

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  • bhance March 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    This cyclist’s respiration is indeed increased right now, because I’m laughing at this guy. And his future. Thanks, Ed!

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  • michael downes March 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Boy…. what a knucklehead!

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  • jim March 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    You certainly don’t want to be in one of those tents full of cyclists after a long ride.

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  • Tom March 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Is it April Fools Day already ? that can’t be real …must have come from The Onion, right ?

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    • Pete March 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Saved me from typing… almost word for word!

      Ed: “Cars” don’t pay for roads… deficit spending does.

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  • Jennifer March 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm


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    • davemess March 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      No Joke! As a scientist I am continually dumbfounded that people in positions of authority/power in our government (for the most part) do not have the most basic understanding of how science works. Not only that, it really irks me that they can’t just admit this and talk to someone who does. Instead they make stuff up or regurgitate someone else’ made up stuff. Just really sad.
      I feel like the average high schooler (who at least stays awake through biology) could factcheck all over this guy!

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  • Seth D. Alford March 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Anyone know of a place to donate money to whatever Democrat runs against this guy in 2014?

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  • BIKELEPTIC March 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Doesn’t carbon dioxide feed trees, though?

    I think he’s getting it confused with carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, benzene, methane, aldehydes and VOCs.

    But let’s worry about cyclists exhaling plant food.

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    • A.K. March 4, 2013 at 8:57 am

      Yes, trees do take in carbon dioxide but that rate slows as the tree matures. That’s why logging and forestry, if done right, can be sustainable and healthy industry to support rather than something to outright ban.

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  • K'Tesh March 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I suspect that this guy has his head shoved up a certain orifice, the greenhouse gas he’s used to is methane

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  • q`Tzal March 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Someone should tell him that he’ll get the environmental vote if just holds his breath so he isn’t contributing to greenhouse gasses.
    He should start holding his breath now to get a head start on the next election cycle… and not stop.

    Maybe he could feed himself to sharks, piranhas or Necrotizing fasciitis; it’s all natural and good for the environment because we wouldn’t have to deal with his hot CO2 anymore.

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    • K'Tesh March 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      His worse contribution to global warming is clearly the hot air he’s full of. Sad thing for Washington state…

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  • Chainwhipped March 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Somebody cancel every athletics program everywhere, Quick!

    Be sure to keep Deer from running, birds from flying, dogs from barking, volcanoes from erupting . . . I was unaware that the Washington Legislature was drawing talent from Special Ed classes.

    Somebody give this a**h*le the air pollution stats from China pre-car vs. China post-car and video tape his response.

    I wonder if he’d rather inhale directly from his car’s tailpipe or from the mouth of Liz Hatch.

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  • karld March 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Any 10 grade government class could do this.

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  • 9watts March 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    We’ve discussed this before, but I think it worth documenting once more:

    “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.”

    Notice how the comparison he makes is between cars and bicyclists. Cars make their drivers invisible. But many of us find that on a bike we are very much recognized–for better or worse–as an individual, a person, and sometimes as a non-taxpayer.
    Of course, no shred of his argument makes any sense, quite apart from this little slip.

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  • mark kenseth March 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    1) He’s admitting to excess CO2 is a problem.
    2) Car CO2 comes from the ancient carbon cycle, not the current carbon cycle.
    3) If bikes should pay for roads, the cars should pay for roads equally. Let’s go pound per pound or CO2 per CO2 emissions. Also, I’d like to have free bike parking on every street and be able to or at least feel safe when riding down Hawthorne, Burnside, Sandy…etc.
    4) Justice issues should be the same too, and so far, they are far from equal.

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    • lyle w. March 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      This is Nut-Punch politics 101, something republicans (and Tea Partiers in particular) have perfected over time to such a perfect degree that they really can’t do anything else even if they wanted to.

      Here, I’ll say something so absurd, so idiotic and so illogical that we’ll both just stand around and argue about whether it’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard, I’ll pretend like I actually believe it, and magically when it’s all said and done, we won’t spend any time discussing what’s actually going on. And then it just goes away and nothing progresses. Rinse, wash and repeat.

      And of course, the irony beyond that point is that, I guarantee you, if you were to ask this guy about the issue of C02 emissions on the environment with the bicycling context completely removed, he wouldn’t hesitate to fall back immediately on the position that it’s totally without merit, scientifically, and is a hoax perpetrated by the elite liberal academic establishment, and doesn’t even deserve one second of discussion. And then would just look at you, blink, and walk away.

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  • 9watts March 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm

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

    He’s also a terrible writer. I don’t think he meant to use the word rather in that sentence. If he did it would make even less sense than all the rest of what he says–if he thinks those biking should pay for the roads they ride on rather than those driving.

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  • Alan 1.0 March 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Mr. Orcutt could have avoided that foot-in-mouth display had he only read BikePortland more diligently:

    New study compares bicycling’s CO2 emissions to other modes

    When the complete life cycle of each mode is calculated, here’s how they stack up (results in grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer traveled):

    Bicycle: 21 g
    Electric-assist bicycle: 22 g (e-bikes scored well due to larger range of standard bicycle and therefore greater chance to replace passenger car trips)
    Passenger car: 271 g (based on short trips similar to those a bicycle could make)
    Bus: 101 g

    BTW, El Biciclero, I know you weren’t being literal but as long as we’re talking about it, the Carboniferous period was 360-290 million years ago. The age of dinosaurs was 135 million to 66 million ybp.

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    • KEH March 3, 2013 at 8:05 am

      Your post just backed him. The study shows bikers pollute.. just maybe less than hydrocarbon based transportation. But is it less than pur electric (using hydropower) or telecommuting.. probably not. Science and stringent enviromental attitudes suck when they get applied to what you like to do in life.. don’t they.. 🙂

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      • Psyfalcon March 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

        The legislator has it all wrong. His understanding of the carbon cycle is entirely incorrect. He is fortuitously less wrong than he could have been, but not by any of his stated understanding of science.

        Food miles do matter. Eating locally grown plants has a lower CO2 output, from SHIPPING and manufacture than meat or plants imported. One particularly poor food seems to be pineapples flown in from warmer places.

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      • was carless March 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm

        KEH, you are completely mistaken. CO2 is [b]NOT a pollutant[/b]. While it is true that it is a GHG, it is not a pollutant. Every living organism on the planet earth emits CO2 as part of its natural cycle.

        Most automobiles burn fossil-fuels as part of the operations of the internal COMBUSTION engine. By their very definition, fossil fuels are composed of SEQUESTERED carbon; ie, carbon that was NOT part of the Earth’s carbon cycle. Sequestered carbon has NO IMPACT on the earth’s atmosphere and does not impact the greenhouse effect, as it is not in gaseous form.

        Once you convert sequestered carbon into a gas and release it into the atmosphere, then it does. And that’s the problem.

        Note that animals and plants do not grow from oil and coal, plants sequester CO2 [b]from[/b] the atmosphere and make them into glucose, which you eat.

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      • Alan 1.0 March 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Where to begin? *sigh*

        Science and stringent enviromental attitudes suck when they get applied to what you like to do in life.

        So far that has not been my experience, nor is it the conclusion I draw from Mr. Orcutt’s fallacy.

        Mr. Orcutt’s message compares cars to bikes, throughout. It is disingenuous to compare cars and bikes but to then suddenly take an absolutist view of one or the other, out of context.

        Bike riders, like any other artificial category of people, exhale more CO2 while exerting than while at rest, it’s true. But (like everyone else) those who are more fit from more exercise also exhale less CO2 while at rest than those who are less fit. I don’t know where the crossover point falls, but I’m willing to concede that the small difference in increased total CO2 emission has a very positive return-on-investment for the more fit segment of the population, and in turn on the greater community in which they live.

        There’s a vocal group of tax reformers calling for “flat rate” income taxes. Note the word “rate;” they are still calling for a PERCENTAGE of income, just not a variable (progressive) rate. They are not calling for a single, equal sum from every citizen. Many other tax reformers suggest linking taxes more directly to those who benefit from them. I agree there’s often a positive value to such a policy, such as in the case of public roads. See Table 4 of Whose Roads for how that sort of equity would play out in the case of cars and bikes.

        And of course, it’s still totally hilarious that a member of the Tea Party–with its central tenet against taxes–proposes to tax breathing. Somehow, I’m not surprised when such politicians target a group that’s often portrayed in the mainstream media as a scapegoat.

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  • dwainedibbly March 3, 2013 at 5:33 am

    If I lived in Kalama (or anywhere in Washington, for that matter) I’d be highly embarrassed by this example of the decline in science education & critical thinking in my state. No amount of ridicule is enough for this jack@ss. (Can I say “jack@ss” here? jack@ss, jack@ss, jack@ss… repeat ad infinitum.)

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    • KEH March 3, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Umm I would be embarrased to not know he is correct. If CO2 is now a pollutant and you put out more CO2 than someone not biking like a passenger on electric transportation OR a telecommuter than its a fact. Shocked ad the knee-jerk politics that stopped people from doing a simple scientific analysis based on current environmental assumptions. But the fact is even if driving a car pollutes MORE that doesn’t mean a biker POLLUTES ZERO.Just less. Just the facts.. he was right and educated people understand that.

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      • was carless March 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        Regarding CO2: it is not a pollutant. See my post above.

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        • Alan 1.0 March 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

          I suppose it could be considered a pollutant in the same sense that H2O was a pollutant in New Orleans/Katrina.

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  • KEH March 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I thought bike riders were more into Science and Fairness…
    FACT.. there has been a lot of money spent in many cities removing parking for bike lanes. And Still I find bikers riding in the street slowing traffic. So time to be part of the community folks and pay your fair share.. if you can afford a $500 Bike you can afford to help with the costs of society. BTW.. Since CO2 is now a pollutant and you put it out by converting organic carbon into CO2 you are polluting… he didn’t say if it was the best choice.. Question is what pollutes more.. a biker or someone sitting on a light rail seat or electric car seat powered by hydro power? The biker does.. as Hydropower has no CO2 emissions.. Odd that you all don’t get that.. SCIENCE.. All he was pointing out was that when you apply the same standards to BIKES that we insist on almost everything else including talking about Cows adding to the greenhouse gasses with Methane.. then yes it is a fact Bikers pollute and if you live in a region with electric cars and transit and hydro power.. you put more CO2 out in a bike ride than a passenger on those kinds of transportation.. Of course he never said he wanted to take away your bikes.. like so many things are being taken away by other political forces..

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    • 9watts March 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

      “And Still I find bikers riding in the street slowing traffic.”

      Funny. Why do I pass cars queuing all the time? Seems they are slowing themselves down without any input from me.

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    • Ron March 3, 2013 at 8:43 am

      “And Still I find bikers riding in the street slowing traffic. So time to be part of the community folks and pay your fair share.. if you can afford a $500 Bike you can afford to help with the costs of society. ”
      As 9Watts says, car traffic slows you down more than bikes. And I am very confident that my share of contribution to the “costs of society” are more than appropriate. What a loutish assumption to make; if you ride bikes, you don’t pay taxes, contribute to charity, buy gas, volunteer your time. Blah.

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    • spare_wheel March 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

      according to the faux-moralists on this thread the act of respiration is “polluting” because it generates greenhouse gases. putting aside the obvious problem that some of these same moralists believe that anthropogenic climate change is a lie, i would hope that these moralists would also consider abstaining from sex, vigorous exercise, and walking up stairs. and then there is the problem that human respiration as a producer of greenhouse gases is like a drop in the bucket compared to the farts of the ruminants we torture and kill unnecessarily for nothing more than cruel pleasure. so i would also propose that those concerned about cyclist respiration would consider forgoing hamburgers, hotdogs, and bbq.

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    • KEH March 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

      Thanks for proving the point.. you assume you are too good to be part of the system. No one ever said you don’t pay taxes. but the trend now is TAX EVERYTHING.. tax gas, tax trips, tax parks .. but no Bikers don’t want their activity taxed. I pay taxes income, etc. That has never been an excuse to not pay MORE TAXES when they invent a new one. As to Pollution.. if you assume human activity that adds CO2 to the atmosphere and is a problem.. then it all counts.. it counts if you burn a log, it counts if you breath.. fewer people breathing less CO2 .. OH EXCEPT if your are on a Bike its magic.. Its like saying calories eaten with diet food are not calories.. they are.. and biking adds some CO2… stop acting like you are too good to have your activity taxed and your CO2 is special. it really makes you look anti-social.. again no one wants to take your bikes. BTW yes cars have other reasons to go slow. but if there is a bike lane.. why would you ride in the street and add a NEW reason for a car to go slow. It seams rather then dealing with FACTS like adults many of the comments are like a child saying “But bobby does it more!! ” Grow up pay the fee and accept the science if humans are changing the environment ALL humans are even bike riders.. (what energy and polution came form the creation of the bike) get over your idea that you are just so special and join the human race bikers.. 🙂

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      • 9watts March 3, 2013 at 9:25 am

        That must be quite a burden – running (I mean walking) around with that many chips on your shoulders.

        Maybe you should read up a little on
        * taxes
        * carbon cycle
        * tone of voice

        See, if you want to talk about taxes, let’s talk also about what we get for them. One reason folks in this country–at least those I know–may not like to pay taxes all that much is that we get so little useful for them. Most of our taxes go to pay interest and kill people in other countries. Other countries with which I am familiar have things arranged where their citizens get lots of useful things for their taxes, and guess what? They don’t mind paying (much higher) taxes than we do. So would I if we all got free
        + education
        + health care
        + unemployment benefits
        + paternity leave
        + top notch infrastructure for all transport modes
        + representative government (the opposite of Citizens United)

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      • spare_wheel March 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

        i can’t even imagine how much it must suck to live in such a very black and white world. i have absolutely no problem with gray — even secular humanist gray. just because i cannot be perfect (e.g. dead) i am not going to stop doing LESS HARM.

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      • El Biciclero March 4, 2013 at 11:59 am

        “you assume you are too good to be part of the system. No one ever said you don’t pay taxes.”

        Isn’t this a contradiction? How can someone who pays taxes not be “part of the system”. You are also assuming that someone else is making an assumption. Compound assumptions can’t be good…

        “…the trend now is TAX EVERYTHING.. tax gas, tax trips, tax parks…”

        Who’s taxing trips, and whose trips are taxed? I know trucks pay weight-mile, but do you? We all chip in for weight-mile taxes when we buy goods shipped by truck.

        “As to Pollution.. if you assume human activity that adds CO2 to the atmosphere and is a problem.. then it all counts..”

        Is there a “pollution tax” on vehicle use now? I drive a car and I don’t think I’ve paid my pollution tax, or CO2 tax, or CO tax or MTBE tax, or thermal pollution tax, or unburned hydrocarbon tax, or NOX tax, or particulate tax, or ozone tax, or stormwater run-off tax, or… If it all counts, then are you ready to pay the meat tax, the running tax, the gym tax, the, ahem, “amorous exertion” tax, etc.?

        “stop acting like you are too good to have your activity taxed and your CO2 is special.”

        Um, well, the activity that supposedly justifies being taxed is breathing. If there were something more closely related to riding a bike for transportation that justified taxation–and was applied across the board, to all transportation modes–maybe you could call cyclists “anti-social”. Oh, and CO2 produced from human respiration IS special–as others have mentioned–in that it is not CO2 that has been unlocked after millions of years of being out of circulation. CO2 released from breathing probably just came out of the system recently as a result of growing food. See Dr2Chase’s excellent comment for further details.

        “…but if there is a bike lane.. why would you ride in the street and add a NEW reason for a car to go slow[?]”

        Ah. I see you haven’t ridden a bike for transportation on any kind of regular basis, or you would know the answer to this. I could show you video of why–from my own daily riding–but that’s a hassle and the reasoning would likely still be lost on someone without more riding experience. Short answer is “safety”, which I know seems counter-intuitive to someone who doesn’t ride, but there it is.

        “if humans are changing the environment ALL humans are even bike riders..”

        So, you’re ready to grow up and pay your own breathing tax?

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    • dr2chase March 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      The most efficient human transportation is obtained by using hydro power to cover the energy inputs to the production of oats, which yield five calories of output for every calorie of energy input (1). Cook those oats in a solar cooker or on top of a wood stove (using hand cut and split firewood, of course) and feed them to a cyclist, who will burn them with about 25% efficiency. The energy amplification provided by the oats more than covers the inefficiency of the human engine, so the net is more miles per gallon, without the added inefficiency of lugging around relatively heavy batteries and electric motors. Oats also store well, unlike electrical energy.

      In addition, it is well known that humans need exercise to stay relatively healthy, so this energy that would normally be wasted in the gym is instead put to good use for transportation. Not everyone takes the trouble to get enough exercise, but for those who do, replacing unproductive exercise with utility cycling is a pure energy win, above and beyond the careful choice of food.

      “Science”, my ass. Some of us actually read this stuff just for fun. I own paper copies of both books listed below.

      (1) Pimentel & Pimentel, “Food, Energy, and Society”
      (2) Wilson, “Bicycling Science”

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  • Terry D March 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I think this guy received his education at the same place Backmann and Beohner went to. Maybe he read about this tax plan and justifications for it in some ALEC publication about the horrors of Agenda 21 and how to prevent it.

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  • Ron March 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Hee hee! Republicans like this guy, Todd Aiken and Sarah Palin are very intellegent in the ways of science.

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  • Dan March 3, 2013 at 9:03 am

    If we’re talking about taxing, let’s include road wear.

    A US GAO study (http://archive.gao.gov/f0302/109884.pdf) showed that a single 18-wheeler at the federal limit of 80,000lbs, weighing 20x as much as a 4000lb passenger car, does 9600x the amount of road damage as the car. A 4000lb passenger car weighs 20x as much as a 200lb bike w/rider. Suppose you calculate road damage for a car, compared to a bike. If it’s $1/year for a bike, it would be $9600/year for a car. The semi truck would pay $92,160,000. And that’s not even factoring in mileage (surely a semi truck travels more annually than I do on my bike).

    From this article: http://www.vabike.org/vehicle-weight-and-road-damage/

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  • Last of the Mohicans March 3, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Hmmm…..Yup, time to change Representative and diaper for the same reason.

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  • 9watts March 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

    KEH: “your CO2 is special”

    Actually, as many sensible folks in this conversation have already pointed out, exhaled CO2 is quite un-special. We’ve been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years with no ill effects that I’ve heard of. What is special is the CO2 that cars and trucks and the manufacture of concrete for freeway expansions emit. And don’t start on the ‘what energy and polution came form the creation of the bike’ riff. That is like saying to someone ‘are your shoe laces made from nylon? See, you are creating climate change and your activities should be taxed.’ You know nothing about how many decades of use I or anyone else who bikes may have gotten out of their bike or shoe laces, or how to compare those to the typical alternatives.

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  • Oregon Mamacita March 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Wowza. You know that a Republican has made an amazingly dumb comment when Nine Watts & I can agree. You would think that certain branches of the Republican party would have learned a lesson from Aiken’s “legitimate rape” remark. But no. The amazingly dumb remarks continue.

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  • Brian March 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    What this representative seems to forget is that the majority of bicycle riders also own a motor vehicle. As a driver, we get hit for gas tax and now they want to tax us as bike riders for trying to be “green” and cut down on pollution. This would be a great time for a scientist to jump with a study showing the amount of CO2 that comes out of a bike rider vs the pollution that comes out of a car.

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  • Tony March 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I guess that carpooling is environmentally destructive too because those extra people in the car with you will be breathing as well and making more CO2!

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  • Kenji March 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Time to tax chili and beans! Methane is a worse greenhouse gas! 😛

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  • Spiffy March 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    as a burrito eating bicycle rider I’m the worst polluter on the planet…

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  • middle of the road guy March 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    The primary flaw in Mr Orcutt’s statement is that a driver is only paying for the road WHEN they use it…..e.g., a pure user fee assessed in real time.

    Since we pay through this resource through taxation, we are paying for it’s existence (and therefore we all have partial ownership) and not necessarily its usage.

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  • Concordia Cyclist March 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Let me guess. The guy’s a Ronald Reagan fan. This kind of dumb just never seems to go away.

    “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” — Ronald Reagan, 1981

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  • Paul in the 'couve March 3, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    A conservative blogger in Vancouver has picked this up. Let’s see some well reasoned responses over there.

    Rep Ed Orcutt to Bicyclists, “Pay Your Fair Share”

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  • bjorn March 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    methane is worse for global warming than CO2, next this guy will be asking for a tax on bean dip.

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  • sciencesque March 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I hope everyone has emailed Ed to let him know how well with “argument” has gone over with reasonable, educated people.

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  • sciencesque March 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I hope everyone has emailed Ed to let him know how well with “argument” has gone over with reasonable, educated people.

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  • Jay March 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm


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  • 007 March 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    More proof the Republican party is irrelevant.

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    • Hood River Betsy March 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Not true, a vote’s a vote and they accept money from lobbyists with the best of them!

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  • Dan March 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Wow, how embarassing for his constituents… And this is the guy that WON the election…

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  • Dan March 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Mmm, since my garden takes in carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen, can I get a tax credit?

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  • Jeff March 3, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Dumb. As. Rocks.

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  • Al from PA March 4, 2013 at 1:00 am


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  • resopmok March 4, 2013 at 5:15 am

    It is truly amazing the lies we can lead ourselves to believe when we refuse to recognize our own mistakes. And while that recognition can lead to a feeling of guilt, it doesn’t have to – we have the ability to forgive ourselves and change our behaviors for the good that we believe is the truth. It is sad, to me, that so many should continue to lie in order to maintain that position in which they see as control over the unknown things that they fear. We can still maintain hope that they will, one day, get a breath of fresh air.

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  • jd March 4, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Ahh, Republicans.

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  • Dave March 4, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Most of us in SW Washington have known that this guy is a horse’s ass for years; this idea is consistent with his history of other statements and votes. I think he’s just had his “Todd Aikin” moment. Oh, and as head of the WA House transportation committee, he IS very opposed to the CRC–silver lining there!

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  • Andyc of Linnton March 4, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Bwaahhhaaaahaa haa!

    Man, Jonathan, you’ve seriously got to have a disclaimer on stories like this, for those of us that just blew their Cheerios all over their computer.

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  • Bikehound March 4, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I know politicians of all backgrounds are prone to make some serious gaffes but I’m interested, coming from across the pond, if any of the electorate will actually believe his claims?

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    • 9watts March 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

      I’m afraid so.

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  • Jorge March 4, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I don’t know about taxing based on CO2, not to mention that drivers breathe heavier while they’re road raging and complaining about traffic.

    But on the other hand, cyclists do impose a small amount of wear on the road. Also, somebody has to pay for bike lane marking and maintenance.

    I like the idea of an optional bike registration that would also file your serial # with the cops in case they recover a stolen bike.

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  • Todd March 4, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Gym membership should include a pollution tax! And all those runners on the esplanade polluting our air should have to pay too!

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  • dan March 4, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Whoah, crazy eyes.

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  • Top Scientist March 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

    It has been recently proven in labs, that the amount of pollution built up in the various domes of our state capitals is 10x higher than the entire city of Copenhagen. Proving that political hot air is the most extreme form of human based air pollution.

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  • Kristen March 4, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I am still breathing when I drive my car, therefore I am putting out more CO2 as a driver than I am as a cyclist (combined from all sources).

    People riding the bus are also still breathing while riding the bus.

    Shoot, I’m putting out CO2 while sitting here at my desk. Good thing I have a couple of plants here in my office to offset some of that CO2….

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  • Craig March 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I’m fine with paying a tax on bikes or bike tires, but only if that funding was to ensure proper paving and marking for bike lanes and infrastructure on ALL WA roads. If the bill made accommodations for safe cycling mandatory for any repaving project….then sure, throw another 10% tax on bicycle tires.

    I would think that Washingtonians will just go to Oregon to buy their bike stuff anyway, which will be good for the Portland bikeconomy.

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    • 9watts March 4, 2013 at 11:37 am

      But with all due respect, Craig, you are conceding the argument to these nuts. The numbers for your proposal don’t pencil out.

      * We know that the costs to our transport infrastructure, never mind to society, from driving a mile in a car are not borne by user fees and taxes on purchases related to driving.
      * We know that every mile ridden on a bicycle (instead of driving a car) saves our government and our society lots and lots of money besides having thousands of other ancillary benefits.

      * We know that what we so glibly refer to as ‘bicycle’ infrastructure is only there because we are at risk on a bike from all those cars we keep subsidizing.

      Therefore, when I read your conciliatory proposal, I shudder. If we really want to wade into this swamp and tally up the costs and benefits by mode, then, as some folks have suggested here recently, the city, state, and federal governments should probably be cutting us who ride bikes checks: big ones, and regularly too. But I don’t really want to go there.

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  • Nat March 4, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Aside from his opinions on the proposal and that bicycles should be taxed everything in his email is factually true. No?

    I believe his point about us emitting more CO2 riding than driving was only to make it clear that bicyclists do emit some level of pollution based on it being listed as a greenhouse gas.

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    • dr2chase March 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      No. It’s factually confused. Drivers pay a token amount to use the roads, which they then proceed to destroy (though trucks should be paying most of all). The other costs of those roads are paid from other taxes, primarily income, property, and sales (depending on level of government and location).

      For local roads, where I live (not Oregon) most of the funding — about 75% — comes from property taxes, which are also paid by cyclists. The road spending in my town is almost entirely devoted to road maintenance, not new construction, so what we see here is the costs of road use by heavy vehicles — not by bicycles, pedestrians, skateboarders, or rollerbladers.

      So, because they pay other taxes, cyclists are already paying for the roads, even though their use produces zero maintenance costs. So he’s wrong on that.

      He’s generally wrong on the CO2 front — first, recall that we eat food that ultimately came from plants, so any CO2 that we produce comes from carbon that was originally CO2 in the area, so it is a short-term closed cycle. Cyclists do that, cars don’t — he’s only counting one half of the cycle, which is “fair” to him because cars don’t have that other half of the cycle, but of course he’s incorrect.

      You can also look at this from the point of view of the energy cost of the human fuel itself, which is in fact important. However, if you assume a typical diet, even a typical US diet, our mpge is still pretty good. Some foods have terrible mpge (beef, pork), but we don’t eat a lot of those both because they are expensive (energy content gets turned into dollar content) and because they are unhealthy in excess, especially the sort of excess that would result if you used them exclusively for fuel calories.

      (Gory math details appear here, if you care: http://dr2chase.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/overselling-a-vegetarian-diet-underselling-utility-cycling/ By-the-way, “terrible” mpge is relative — 85% lean beef fueling a human cyclist still gives you 30mpge, which is about what CAFE requires for current new cars. But eating potatoes, a human provides over 700 mpge. )

      You can play duelling far-fetched scenarios to attempt to prove that cars can be greener in theory (“hydroelectric-powered E-cars!”) but it turns out that the bicycle still wins (“eco-oatmeal-powered-cyclists!”). And that’s without deploying the aerodynamic fairings and wheels.

      So, factually true? No.

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      • Nat March 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        I don’t believe his email contained anything about the car users paying their fare share, just that the act of bicycling itself is not in any way paying towards the road. I agree most of the roads in both WA and in OR are paid for by other means but that’s not what he was saying.

        It seems to me the point he was trying to make is that the act of bicycling is not paying towards the roads while the act of driving a car, usually, does.

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        • 9watts March 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

          “It seems to me the point he was trying to make is that the act of bicycling is not paying towards the roads while the act of driving a car, usually, does.”

          Nat, I don’t think any amount of creative reading of his statements is going to rescue them from the rubbish heap.
          The act of bicycling is also not wearing out the roads, costing the taxpayer or anyone else anything. You see how the swamp into which he chose to wade is hard to extricate oneself from? This foolish nonsense he’s talking and he admitted so himself. Time to move on.

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        • dr2chase March 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

          He may not have said anything about “fair share”, but because car owners don’t pay their fair share, that means that somebody else must also pay. That would be all people who pay other property, sales, and income taxes. That includes bicyclists. They’ve paid for the roads already, contrary to his assertion that they do not.

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        • Alan 1.0 March 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm

          I donno…I think there’s a law that says you have to turn off your engine while you’re fueling up, and anyway, those hoses just aren’t long enough to actually drive on a public road. I mean, not to be pedantic or anything.

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      • Nat March 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        I should also say I do understand what you are saying and would really like to see a system where heavy vehicle users pay their fare share (including those using electricity, or home-made biodiesel).

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    • Nat March 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      I suppose I can understand the idiocracy statements if people assume he’s claiming that a person+car emits less CO2 than a cyclist but it appears his intention was to refer only to the CO2 emitted by the person (not including the car).

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  • BURR March 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    OMG, we truly do live in an Idiocracy.

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  • GlowBoy March 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    OMG! For the sake of the planet, everyone please STOP EXERCISING!

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  • dr2chase March 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I can’t help but think that the trucking industry is seeing this sort of conversation go by, and is wishing that people like this fine legislator would STFU about paying “fair share” to use the road, lest somebody notice that awesome growth of cubic functions of per-wheel weight.

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    • Nat March 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      The more I ponder Orcutt’s email and this comment from dr2chase about the trucking industry the more I think it might not be a bad idea to start advocating for a tax/toll system based on weight including bicycles. The pricing should be linear but cut off at a point where the fee is less than the cost to administer collecting it.

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      • dr2chase March 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        No, not linear — depending on which expert you consult, the damage is cubic or quartic in the weight per wheel, summed over wheels. That’s why the trucking industry doesn’t want this conversation started. A heavily loaded cargo bike is 250lbs per wheel by 2 wheels, call that 250-cubed times 2 = 3.1e7 “damage units” (DUs). My Honda Civic, twice the load per wheel, twice the wheels, is 16x more (5e8DU). Tripling the weight for a large SUV is 27x that (1.35e10). A max-load 18 wheeler is 80,000lbs, but spread over 18 wheels — (8e4/18)-cubed times 18 = 1.58e12. The fact that the differences are in the exponent ought to give you pause.

        Suppose, for example, that a 2500mi/year bicycle “ought” to pay a dollar. What’s fair, then, for a Honda Civic driven 7500mi/year? $48.
        An SUV driven that same distance? $1296! How about an 18-wheeler, driven fully loaded for 7500 miles? $153,000!!! Now, do note that they’re not always fully loaded — half-loaded, same distance, does only 1/8 the damage, so $19,000 — but trucks are typically driven far more than 7500 miles per year.

        And realistically, it’s not *quite* that simple — emergency services use roads, too, and they’re generally regarded as a public benefit, and we derive some overall public benefit from a transportation network — but there’s no particular reason to completely subsidize their use when a more market-like approach would yield greater efficiency. Further complicating things is that better and more patient mathematicians than I have attacked this problem, and they say that yes trucks should pay more, but we should use all that money to build roads that are more durable and can withstand more abuse between repairs.

        It’s also not complete skittles and beer for us lefty-types, either — city busses are not exactly svelte.

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        • Nat March 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

          I like it.

          Either way the cost to pedestrians and bicycles would be so small compared to a truck or even SUV that active transportation users would certainly be considered exempt in a discussion around weight/wear based usage fees.

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  • Barbara March 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I think it’s scary that these people who call themselves fiscal conservative don’t even understand the basics of which taxes are paying for what. Again and again thetrepeat the argument that bicyclists don’t pay for the roads they use, but car drivers. Same thing with Amtrak. Just this weekend the Oregonian quoted someone from the Cascade Policy institute that Amtrak is heavily subsidized, but streets are not! In fact Amtrak is the least paid for by subsidies and most by user fees compared to other forms of transportation. Somehow, those “fiscally conservative” seem to think that streets fall from the sky, whereas only bicycle or Amtrak infratsructure has to be paid for by non-suspecting car driving tax payers.

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  • Skid March 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    People who drive their car to the gym to work out make twice as much pollution as people who ride their bike for a workout.

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  • Joe March 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    what a buncha ****

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  • Pete March 6, 2013 at 7:58 am

    If I’m made to pay $10 to register my bike then I’m going to make sure I get my money’s worth. Forget bike lanes, I’ll be taking the whole road, whenever I like and I’ll take my sweet time going nowhere, enjoying what I’m paying for… twice.

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  • Supercourse March 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting……..there’s always a R before the name of a troglodyte.

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    • Alan 1.0 March 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      How about the person who proposed the bike tax that Orcutt supports: Judy Clibborn, D-41st?

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      • Paul in the 'couve March 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm

        And it is Republicans in the WA Senate that might block the CRC. Not for all the right reasons entirely but at least for recognizing it is a boondoggle. Meanwhile all but maybe two democrats are all for the CRC in WA. And there was only one Democrat that voted against the CRC in OR>

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  • 9watts March 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Just for contrast, the German federal government put out an ad campaign a few years ago with the tag line Kopf an Motor aus: Für null CO2 auf Kurzstrecken

    roughly translated as turn on your head, turn off your engine: for zero CO2 for short trips


    They seem to have no difficulty understanding–and emphasizing– that biking and walking correspond to ‘zero CO2.’

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  • Reaper July 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    After reading the comments it’s so sad that hardly anyone, save a few, realized that this Congresscritter was making fun of all the global warmists with the CO2 rhetoric. Are all you so dense that you don’t see the satire? Wow.

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    • 9watts July 16, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Guess we’ll see who has the last laugh.

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  • GlowBoy July 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Maybe because some of the deniers are so dense it’s hard to tell the difference between satire and sincerity.

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