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US lawmaker blames bicycle breath for global warming gas

'Increased heart rate and respiration' pollutes Washington

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Updated A Washington state representative has uncovered a previously under-reported source of greenhouse gas: huffing and puffing cyclists.

Ed Orcutt, who lists "Tax relief" at the top of his legislative priorities and who was 2000's Washington Young Republican Federation Man of the Year, emailed the owner of a Tacoma, Washington, bike shop who had written him to protest a proposed tax on bicycles, part of a larger state transportation bill.

Although he noted that he was "not a fan" of many tax proposals, Orcutt argued that "it only makes sense that bicyclists would also be required to pay for the 'roads' they use when they are actually biking on them." He then added his belief that two-wheeled transport is polluting the environment:

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.

When contacted by the Seattle Bike Blog, representative Orcutt stuck to his guns. "You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car," he said, but he admitted that he had not "done any analysis" on the amount of that EPA-identified globe-warmer produced by spandex-wearing devotees of two-wheel locomotion as compared to that which is spewed from the tailpipes of the gas-guzzling vehicles driven by Washington's 6.9 million residents.

Perhaps Orcutt should take a gander at a study by the European Cyclists Federation, which determined that cyclists produce 21 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer travelled, as BikePortland.org has pointed out, including the CO2 involved in the production of the food fueling the cyclist. A passenger car's overall carbon footprint per passenger per kilometer, according to the study, stands at 271 grams "based on short trips similar to those a bicycle could make."

Although there is general consensus among climate scientists that the radiative forcing caused by increasing atmospheric CO2 is one component in the overall global temperature rise since such records have been reliably kept, Orcutt's theory that bicyclists are partly to blame is a novel one, to say the least.

But red-light running and expressions of often-effusive moral superiority? Well, that's another thing entirely. ®

Update

After the furor engendered among cyclists by his carbon-based comments, Representative Orcutt wrote an apologetic email to the Seattle Bike Blog, saying in part, "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."

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