State rep under fire for comments about cyclists - KPTV - FOX 12

State rep under fire for comments about cyclists

Posted: Updated: March 4, 2013 09:56 PM

A local state representative is under fire for comments he made about cyclists.

While voicing his stance on a proposed Washington state bike tax, Ed Orcutt (R - Kalama) claimed that biking is not environmentally friendly. Orcutt added that people who ride bikes pollute the air when they breathe.

It's all documented in an email he wrote to a constituent that went viral.

In that email, Orcutt says he'd consider supporting the tax, because he believes people who use area roads should help pay for them, but it's the claim that cyclists themselves are causing pollution that has so many people talking.

He did apologize, but the comment comes in the middle of a battle over a bike tax.

The proposed Washington state transportation package would tack on a $25 fee to any bike that costs more than $500.

The proposal, announced by house Democrats last week, would raise $9.8 billion over the next decade.

"We're going to lose bike sales, and the more we lose, the harder it is to stay open," said Wade Leckie, owner of Bad Monkey Bikes.

"We will have to supplement that income through other manners, maybe by raising the price of accessories or the price of labor, and I don't want to do that to my customers."

Leckie says he already has to fight off the big box stores like Walmart and Target who can offer cheaper deals on bikes. Now he's worried what the new tax on top of it all will do to his sales. Ultimately, he says customers may just end up crossing the river to avoid the tax all together.

"In Vancouver, we are a border town," Leckie said. "One of the things we struggle with is people going to Oregon to save money on tax, and adding another bike tax in Washington sales is just going to drive people to Oregon and take money out of Vancouver."

Orcutt says the idea of bicyclists paying for some of the infrastructure they are using is one which merits consideration, but since he has heard concerns about doing this via sales tax due to the impact on bicycle shops.

He now says he is very willing to work with the bicycle community to determine an appropriate way to enable bicyclists to pay for some of the bicycle-only lanes and overpasses.

In a statement to FOX 12 Orcutt wrote:

"It is my intent to seek out your advocates in Olympia to see if there are other ways to accomplish this. Again, I do apologize for the carbon line in the e-mail and any confusion it has created. I look forward to working on reasonable solutions to the problems cyclists are having with infrastructure."

Overall, the transportation package, likely to be debated for much of the legislative session, would plow billions of dollars into highway projects.

It also would provide money to help build a new Columbia River bridge to Portland.

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