How some people get elected to public office is truly a mystery.
A congressman from the state of Washington recently emailed a constituent that he believes cyclists contribute to air pollution while they ride.
"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 that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide by the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting while they ride." - Representative Ed Orcutt, (R) Washington, email (see image)
Yes Congressman Orcutt, you are mistaken. The average human emits one kilogram of carbon dioxide per day, depending on activity level. Whether that human is confined to a bed, sitting on a couch, riding in a car, walking along the sidewalk, riding a bike, or running on a treadmill at the health club, he or she is emitting carbon dioxide. But not a single one of us is polluting - no matter how fast or slow we are breathing.
"(H)uman exhalation of carbon dioxide is part of a closed system. There can be no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere because the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale can’t be greater than the carbon we put into our bodies by eating plants, or eating animals that eat plants. The plants got the carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis." - Ask Dr. Global Change
For sake of comparison - even though there is no equivalence - the average auto emits 258 grams per kilometer (.916 pounds per mile). In as little as two and one half miles, one car has emitted the same amount as one human has in an entire day. But since cars don't eat plants or animals for fuel, 100% of auto emissions is added to the air we all breathe. This doesn't even include the hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide exiting the tailpipe and the higher rate of air pollution that occurs while the engine and catalytic converter are cold. (Source: Wikipedia)
Now that that myth is busted, let's get on to the other assertion in the congressman's email; cyclists should be taxed for using the roads.
This one comes up all the time from the "fair is fair" crowd. Rant after rant ends with "bicyclists need to pay their fair share if they want to share our roads." Roads are paid for with gas taxes. Cyclists are getting a free ride. This old song is getting really tired.
It's too bad that the good congressman and the rest of the "bikes are bad" gang can't take three seconds to Google this information:
"A new report from the Tax Foundation shows 50.7 percent of America’s road spending comes from gas taxes, tolls, and other fees levied on drivers. The other 49.3 percent? Well, that comes from general tax dollars, just like education and health care. The way we spend on roads has nothing to do with the free market, or even how much people use roads." - DC Streetsblog
You read that right, drivers of all motor vehicles - motorcycles, cars, light and heavy trucks, taxis, and buses - barely cover half the cost of the nation's roadways. The rest - nearly half - is covered by every taxpayer. We're not sharing your roads, you're sharing ours!
As supporters of bicycling begin this week in Washington DC at the annual National Bike Summit, we can only hope that these facts get through to our elected officials. We're not asking for special treatment. We aren't demanding disproportionate accommodation. We're simply asking for equal consideration.
We aren't asking to be thanked for cutting down on harmful emissions. We aren't asking for a tax credit for reducing wear and tear on our shared roads. We ride for ourselves. We just want to be safe.
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Keep riding and be safe.