A Washington state lawmaker apologized Monday for telling a bike-shop owner that cyclists cause carbon pollution simply by breathing hard.
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, made the remark last week in an emailed reply to Dale Carlson, owner of BikeTech in Tacoma, Lakewood and Olympia. Carlson had messaged 30 lawmakers opposing a proposed $25 fee on new bicycles worth $500 or more.
Orcutt wrote that the bike fee was just about the only thing he likes in the $10 billion package proposed by Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman
of the House Transportation Committee, where Orcutt is the top-ranking GOP member.
He wrote: "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 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."
The comment - which recalls a remark by President Ronald Reagan that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do" - caused a bit of a sensation. It
was published over the weekend by Cascade Bicycle Club and made the rounds to news outlets and advocacy blogs around the country.
Orcutt said in an interview Monday night that he already knew bicycling uses only a fraction as much carbon as driving.
"I just didn't close out the thought," he said, after spending the day as a subject of derision.
Earlier Monday, to set the record straight, he issued an email: "First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an email 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 email."
Orcutt, whose hometown has two miles of bike-pedestrian trail on the Columbia River, said he will look at alternatives to the $25 fee, to fund bike infrastructure.