Tuesday, March 05, 2013

State Rep. Ed Orrcutt's comment about bicycle pollution makes a funny distraction

A lot of heat and media comments are being generated by an assertion from Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt (R) of Kalama, that bicyclists cause pollution by just breathing out carbon dioxide. Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt, Who Is Pushing Bike Fee, Walks Back Claims That Cyclists Cause Pollution. Headline in the Huffington Post.

Kind of a funny distraction. Carbon dioxide, from breathing, is basically a non issue compared to burning of fossil fuels, but it makes funny news copy.

The more real issue is about a proposal to put a sales tax on bike sales to help pay for roads that bikes ride on. I think it's a Democrat that first proposed the idea as part of a Washington State transportation bill, but a Republican has induced some hot air over the matter. The proposal calls for a $25 sales tax on bikes priced $500 and above. I'm a bicyclist, but I still see some logic in this as a way to partially pay for bike infrastructure.

It may be a poorly designed tax, however. If this tax were imposed, there would be a lot of bikes selling for $499, to avoid the $500 tax cutoff. Maybe they should just have a $5 tax per hundred dollar price on bikes. Then the cheaper bikes, sold at places like Walmart, would be taxed as well as the more expensive bikes that tend to be sold at the locally owned bicycle shops. Level the playing field between discount box stores and local bike shops.

Still, I'm not totally against some revenue from bikes to help establish our legitimacy on roads in the public perception. Even with this tax, bike facilities are highly subsidized by other taxes and that is good. Since bicycling is healthy, promoting bicycling, by subsidizing bike paths, could help the entire population save on healthcare costs. So, yes, for the most part I favor giving bicycles a free ride, but I'm not against at least a small tax of some sort.

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