Legislator says cyclists' heavy breathing causes pollution as they ride

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SEATTLE - A state legislator started a firestorm by claiming bicyclists add to greenhouse gas emissions by breathing heavily as they ride.

 Bike shop owner Dale Carlson said he was so concerned about a proposal to tax bicycle sales that he wrote to state legislators.

 The email he received back from the transportation committee’s ranking Republican, Ed Orcutt of Kalama, made an unusual claim.

 “He talked about the effect on global warming we have from breathing hard,” said Carlson.

 Orcutt refuted the idea that cycling is environmentally friendly by explaining that cyclists have “an increased heart rate and respiration.”

 Orcutt wrote that means “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,” the email said.

 “Oh, I thought that was amusing,” said Carlson.

Carlson forwarded Orcutt’s email to a friend.  It’s now all over cycling blogs and social media.

In an interview with the Seattle Bike Blog, Orcutt went a step further and was quoted saying “you would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving a car.”     

When KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Graham Johnson reached Orcutt by phone, he retracted what he had said.

“I was over the top on that one and I do apologize to the cycling community for that,” said Orcutt.

Orcutt acknowledged there was no merit to his claims.

“It’s not a strong enough argument. I really shouldn’t have even brought it up,” said Orcutt.

“That’s good to hear,” said Carlson.

Carlson hopes attention turns to the House Democrats’ proposed bike tax.

The tax would help fund road improvements with a $25 sales fee on bikes worth $500 or more.

 Opponents say it would hurt cyclists and small businesses.