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Now They've Done It: A Sin Tax on...Bikes

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Well, it took longer than I thought, but a government has finally out-greened itself. In the great state of Washington, the legislature wants to tax… wait for it …breathing.

“Holy exhalations!” you say, “Is it true?”

Yes old chum, I’m afraid it is. It would appear the folks on Washington’s equivalent of a capitol hill have come up with a transportation package that tabs out at 10 billion clams, which is a lot, even for a coastal state. Okay, that was a lousy play on words. MOVING ON THEN…

Actually $10 billion is a lot of money, even in a day and age in which the national debt probably increased by that much in the time it has taken me to put the period at the end of this sentence.

So from where will all these dollars flow? Well, from a gasoline tax naturally. Anymore you can’t have a left-wing state without a gasoline tax on all of those icky carbon spewing vehicles. C’mon, you should have been able to guess that one on your own!

But according to a handy flyer provided by the Seattle Times, a gas tax is only part of the plan. There is also an increase in the commercial gross weight fee, a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, a Hazardous Substance Tax, two bonds (“Bond” is a nice word for “taxes”, by the way.) and… drumroll please…a $25 tax on bicycles that cost more than $500. The legislators in Washington figure that should garner about a million bucks for roads.


Yup, Washington State wants to tax bikes. The legislature there want to tax gas saving, non-polluting bikes powered by the human machine that emits no disgusting substances to befoul the air. You might be tempted to say “Hey, bicyclists use the road, they ought to pick up at least some of the tab.” And you would be right. But according to one legislator, it is the amount of carbon exhaled by cyclists that merit them getting hit with this tax. And imagine my chagrin when I discovered it was a Republican spouting this bit of nonsense. In an article on The Examiner website by Mikael Thalen, GOP State Representative Ed Orcutt is quoted as saying: “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 from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride."

Insert laugh track here.

So, a Washington Republican finally succeeded where Jacque Cousteau, Sir David Attenborough, England’s Prince Phillip, and Ted Turner could not- he has pinned climate change onHomo sapiens. And apparently also on his semi-high-end bike. 

I know folks who eschew cars for bikes because of the cost and because they want to lessen their personal carbon footprint. That’s fine, do as thou wilt, oh pilgrim. They are put out by motorists who don’t give them the space they need, or call them “dirty hippies” as they drive by. Conversely, I know motorists who are annoyed by what they perceive to be an elitist attitude by cyclists, who seem intent on making themselves a nuisance on streets and roads. That’s a debate for another time. (Personally, I just wish they would not ride so close to the white line on the side of the road. I always think they are going to swing out into traffic.)

What is germane to this discussion is that bicycles have at best a barely discernible impact on roads. That, and in this case we are essentially talking about what amounts to BREATHING TAX. The problem with that is breathing is one of those things everyone does. Unless you are a fetus, a corpse or an astronaut, you are at this moment inhaling and exhaling; and apparently inflicting damage on the atmosphere.

A story goes that Mark Twain was once trapped by a bore who lectured him at length on the Great Hereafter. The man said to Twain: “Do you realize that every time I exhale some poor soul departs this world?” Twain is reported to have replied “Really? Have you tried chewing cloves?” 

Apparently for the elected officials of the Evergreen State, chewing cloves will not suffice.

They feel it is time to tax people simply for existing.

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