When I read about a Washington legislator’s response to the proposed tax on bicycle sales, I honestly thought it was someone’s elementary attempt at sarcasm.
State Rep. Ed Orcutt, a Republican representing Kalama down in Cowlitz County, says bicycle riding is not an environmentally friendly activity. He wrote to a constituent:
“If I am not mistaken, a cyclist 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.”
OK. It’s nice to see a Republican actually use “science” in an argument, although I’d like to see the scientific study that concludes bicyclists add to global warming. [I wonder what he has planned for the bean industry.]
Orcutt says he’s generally not in favor of tax proposals, but he says that there are valid reasons to tax bicycles.
The issue came up after House Democrats proposed a huge transportation package that included $9.8 billion in new revenue over the next decade to pay for it. One provision called for a $25 tax on the sale of any bicycle costing more than $500, an action that would raise $1 million over the next 10 years.
House Transportation Chairman Rep. Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island, who submitted the transportation plan, says she doesn’t really approve of the $25 but submitted it as a symbolic gesture to Republicans who like to say bicyclists don’t pay their fair share.
Orcutt was responding to a letter from Dale Carlson, owner of Bike Tech in Tacoma, who was asking him to oppose the tax. Orcutt responded with the old argument that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share for roads and bike lanes, because they don’t pay a gasoline tax.
“I know, you own a car and drive so you are paying a 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 biking.”
Apparently Orcutt, a member of the Transportation Committee, never looked at the facts on how roads are funded.
A study of figures in Seattle shows that the gasoline tax accounts for less than 1% of the local transportation department’s budget. Meanwhile, an analysis by the League of American Bicyclists points out that motorists don’t pay for roads either — most of the cost is paid by property taxes, sales taxes, and bond issues.