What about Clunkers-for-Bikes?

Leslie Carlson

As we get ready to fund yet another round of Cash-for-Clunkers, I'd like to put in a plea that we extend the program to those of us who don't use cars all that much. Let's extend Cash-for-Clunkers to include bikes.

Bikes are the primary form of transportation for our family, although we do own two cars. (Neither of our cars qualify as clunkers since their mileage is too high, thereby penalizing us for having bought efficient cars in the first place). Switching from being car drivers to being bike riders has had great benefits for our household, including more disposable income (less spent on maintenance, gas and parking), better health (dozens of pounds lost and better fitness) and increased family connections (running errands by bike is a great way to bond with your kids). 

It's not lost on me, however, that our choice to commute primarily by bike has societal benefits as well. Bicycles are much easier on road surfaces, reducing spending on road maintenance. We produce zero emissions, which keeps the air cleaner for those that suffer from asthma. We don't need any oil, imported or domestic. My husband and I--and our kids, if they keep it up--will tax the health care system less, since we are less likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

I'm at loss, then, to understand why the federal government wouldn't extend Cash-for-Clunkers to bikes. After all, aren't American bicycle companies like Trek and Cannondale just as deserving as GM and Ford? Shouldn't shops like the Bike Gallery and River City Bicycles benefit in the same way as auto dealers? After all, the bike economy is big and getting bigger in Portland. There's even evidence that driving less keeps more money in our local economy

And while a Clunkers-for-Bikes program wouldn't be popular in every area, there are a lot of cities--Portland, San Francisco, Davis, New York, Boulder and Austin come to mind--where there would be lots of takers.

So how about it, Oregon delegation? In some neighborhoods in Portland, bike commuters are about 25 percent of total commuters. Let's get more super-efficient bikes on the road.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)

    But do we need a $4500 bike?

  • Leslie Carlson (unverified)

    But do we need a $4500 bike?

    Tempting, Jonathan, tempting. But maybe that money would buy a family of four a bike each.

    Our neighbors to the North have a Clunkers-for-Bikes program that gives $1,200 Cdn when you trade in your clunker for a bike.

  • amigo (unverified)

    Do we need a $45,000 car?

  • (Show?)

    I’m not a fan of the “cash for clunkers” program, as I understand it. It’s a big waste of money. I’m ok with very modest public subsidies for cars getting 35 mpg and up, and for an auto industry selling those kind of cars. I’m not ok with subsidies for SUVs or low mileage cars, or an auto industry that sells those cars new, as now seems possible under the “cash for clunkers” program.

    The best way to get clunkers off the road would be with a preemptive, revenue neutral gas tax. The price of gasoline is going to go up, then up some more, and then more. Don’t know when or how fast. Imposing a tax would speed the transition to alternative vehicles and transportation systems up, deny funding to petrostates abroad, and keep more dollars in the US economy.

    We don’t need to subsidize bike ownership. We do need better bike routes and laws, and, perhaps, a few free ones to borrow from time to time.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)

    Of course a servicable bicycle can be had for about $300. So we who have disdain for the internal combustion engine don't really need any federal help to get a decent bike.

    It is interesting to consider how many (if any) people would give up their cars if the feds paid them a grand or so under condition they switch to a bike and public trans. I'm guessing not many.

  • Connor Allen (unverified)

    Bikes are good, but not for everyone a practical vehicle for commuting or life, mostly because of geography, like you said in the post. Because of that, it may not get a lot of support outside of cities, but it'd probably be a good urban policy. So long as we keep in mind that it'd be limited geographically, and so it's not a solution for everyone, yeah, I would probably like it as part of a package of solutions.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    I like the idea Leslie. Even if a bit tongue in cheek. How about Cash for Harley's? Let me trade in that old SUV that gets 16mpg and now mostly serves me and the wife for a Harley at 45 mpg.

    after all our friends in Wisconsin could use some help moving their product lines also.....

  • (Show?)

    Ditto, Connor.

    If folks choose to bike, it's wonderful but I don't think everyone automatically wants to given a choice. Having the freedom of a car is nice and it's a large step to take for many to eliminate that option if they live, say, east of 82nd, work downtown and have a couple of kids. I think it's a nice baby step to at least get folks thinking about smaller cars and eventually on public transit or a bike. It would be interesting too to add carshares to the cash for clunkers project. Get a membership, get a few bucks off your taxes.

    PS: I'm car-free and don't want a bike :)

  • Douglas K. (unverified)

    If you actually wanted to trade in your gas guzzler for a bike, you wouldn't need a government incentive. You can probably get enough money selling the car to buy buy a bike outright, and have beer and pizza money left over. (To be sure, the car stays on the road instead of being scrapped -- but you still get a bike out of the deal.)

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    God Bless you if you can figure out how I can trade my old Chevy Suburban for a Harley Roadmaster. Clunkers for Bikes is a wonderful cause.

    See you in Sturgis!

  • Brock Howell (unverified)

    You can join the "Bikes-for-Clunkers" movement on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108468061641. Make your voice heard!

  • (Show?)

    if you're going to mention a couple of big bike stores, you need a more complete list or perhaps use BikePortland's list. i got my Surly (love it, even if it's not American-made) from 7-Corners; i would recommend the bike & Corey's shop to anyone.

    7-Corners helped introduce bike loans with Unitus Credit Union; i believe there are more such programs around now. we won't see a clunkers-for-bike program, but anyone needing a good bike can now get a credit union loan to help them finance the switch to bike commuting (and let me tell you, as someone who switched from a clunker bike to a new beauty, it makes a hell of a difference).

    ps, Greg: bicycles. not motorcycles. dream on, buddy.

  • Abhishek (unverified)

    I think an ulterior motive is to generate auto sales and relieve stagnant car inventory. The $8000 stimulus for a new home buyer is similar where renters who are not in the market for a new home and existing home owners can not avail this opportunity.

  • Cafe Today (unverified)

    How about "cash for skateboards"? Or maybe "cash for razor scooters"? This post misses the point.

  • Brian C. (unverified)

    Here's a radical idea. How about you buy yourself and effing bicycle and keep public funds out of the transaction altogether? I don't care what your preffered method of conveyance is- shoes, bike, motor vehicle, public transportation. More power to you but stop demanding that the taxpayer subsidize it with these ridiculous schemes.

  • Best Electronic Cigarette (unverified)

    Love the tongue in cheek commentary. Lots of valid points though...and your idea would reduce our health-care costs as well....a double bonus. Aren't those the 2 big programs that Obama is trying to fix...you've got the solution! Genius!

  • Thekid (unverified)

    Well, I don't mean to offend (pointless, since that statement probably means you're likely to get offended...but please don't.), but that's a little silly--proposing to extend cash-for-clunkers to bikes.

    As far as I can see, the c-for-c program isn't so much to promote America's car industry as it is to promote less fuel emissions. Come on--the government is fully aware that Americans are bound to buy foreign cars because they're more fuel efficient. They save money! Statistics show that the majority of cars that citizens who have taken advantage of the c-for-c program buy are from Japan. They aren't Fords of GMs.

    This is Government's way of getting in their agenda (even if it's a good one) as subtly as possible. However, I thin they're being fairly blatant about it.

    Regardless, extending it to bicycles would be a waste of money--they're already fuel efficient. They're already saving the government loads of money, like you pointed out. They have no reason to pay money to people who are already catering to the system.

    So, even if it would be awesome, it's also a little impractical. Even for our current, money-wasting government.

    Cause, honestly...as good as saving the earth is, we don't have the money to do it like this.

  • Thekid (unverified)

    And, as Brian C. said, I think it's utterly ridiculous that the Government is using our money to pay other people to buy cars.

    It's such an incredible waste of money. Like I said, the money we pay in taxes is slowly seeping out of the system because absolutely NONE of the money these people get in the c-for-c program is going into American cars, and therefore is NOT helping the American economy.

    We are slowly, painfully screwing ourselves in a hundred different ways. And only now are we hearing the outcry of non-consent!

    Personally, as an 18 year old fresh from the makings of society, I'm going to be crushed under the amount of taxes I have to pay just to torture my own government--the government that's supposed to be taking care of me!

    Cash for Clunkers...ha. What's more, is that how the hell am I supposed to buy a car? I can't afford these new gadgets on the market, let alone a new car! It's impossible. Old, cheap, barely usable cars were my only option. And now they're all going to be pieces of scrap in a junkyard.

    Also, and slightly irrelevant--old cars are gorgeous. Compares to this new crap they're spinning off the production lines, oldies have an intense artistic quality about them that is severely lacking in new cars. They are also a very severe part of Americana, old cars are. All that history is going to be chopped, smashed, and melted until all of its shine and shape wear off. It's sad.

    Oh, this post is irrelevant altogether. But the more I watch the news, the angrier I get. It's like they didn't even think this one through!

    And really, even if you do get $4,500 for your old car to put into a new one, whatever you buy, you're still going to be at least a couple thousand in debt. So in the attempt to help American car companies (which it won't even do), the government will also continue to slow the economy. The more in debt Americans become, the less willing they will be to spend.

    Ah! I'm having a panic attack just thinking about it.

  • The 2 Wheeled Doctor (unverified)

    I'm not sure why a few of you think this post is tongue-n-cheek. The idea is more than sound.

    Get gas hogging smoke creating automobiles off the road, get your average American extra sized waist line on a bike and use it to commute to both work and shopping.

    The benefit to society (and individuals) is huge; decrease in obesity will decrease the likelihood of developing diabetes, high blood pressure (stroke), high cholesterol and heart disease. All of which costs the American economy probably hundreds of billions of dollars annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

    The idea that your lifestyle can't support riding a bicycle is an urban planning goal we all need to prioritize.

  • James Marks (unverified)

    For what it's worth, the recession appears to have HELPED the bike manufacturing industry: No recession for bicycle makers

    and it turns out that there actually already IS a bailout provision for bike commuters: Cyclists, at Least, Praise a Bailout Provision

  • Robin Ozretich (unverified)

    I'd like to see data to back up the various claims that have been made above about all the C-for-C money going to buy foreign cars. From the news reports I've heard, it's simply not true (Ford dealerships runnning out of Focus and Fusion, auto sales across the board up 50%).

    in just a few weeks of operation, I think C-for-C has proven itself to be a pretty effective method of stimulating the auto industry, (not necessarily a good way of preventing environment catastrophe, though).

  • A Conservative Democrat (unverified)

    Cash for clunkers clearly reveals the government promotes irresponsible waste. Many of the so-called clunkers turned in under the program are not really clunkers at all. Others are a great source of reusable parts that otherwise must be manufactured consuming energy and resources. Scrapping all the vehicles turned is not only wasteful reckless consumption, but it is just plain stupidity as well. In the long run, it will cost everybody more to replace and transport what is being foolishly disposed of. Common sense would require the vehicles turned in to be parted out instead of just destroyed, thereby not interrupting the chain of reuse and contributing to an economical used parts supply for people who can not afford to buy new

    Another problem with the program is that it will reduce the money to maintain roads that is collected from fuel taxes. A clunkers for bikes program would only reduce those strained highway fund accounts even more. That however is an extremely good lead in to begin requiring bicyclists to pay a road tax and purchase a bicycle license. It is about time the bicyclists themselves pay for bicycle infrastructure instead of extracting dollars from non-bicyclist taxpayers and raiding highway funds.

    A related issue that can be seen throughout all levels government is one of privilege. Look around. A couple of days ago I saw a City of Portland survey crew with a huge Ford Excursion that has “The City that Works:” logo on the doors. Both the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Fire Bureau have big Chevy Suburbans that are usually used as single occupancy vehicles. Even TriMet has full sized sedans and SUVs in their supervisory fleet. All these vehicles are unnecessarly oversized for what they are being used for.

    Finally, the green light has been turned on. As long as the government demonstrates their willingness to promote consumption with disposable cars and the like, I too can use one time use and disposable products on a daily basis. Not only will it save time and money, but most garbage haulers charge the same price per month whether the can is full or not. Then if somebody wants to pick through what is thrown away at a garbage transfer center or the dump, so be it. Just don’t place that burden on the taxpayers too.

  • Steve Rosenbaum (unverified)

    Cash for Clunkers has questionable societal and environmental benefit.

    Clunkers for Bikes would be terrific!

  • kenny heggem (unverified)

    Why werent the cars turned donated to charities? If they were serviceable this would have been a decent, and non-wasteful way to use these vehicles.

    Charities are hurting due to the program.

    Used cars are going down in value.

    People are going into consumer debt to keep the machine going. That is the carrot.

    Dealers are charging MSRP so no one is getting a better deal anyway. We are just paying the dealer and manufacture, the tax payers, more than they would make when savvy buyers would often negotiate a deal at or below invoice. (seeing they get holdback selling a car from the manufacture regardless sof selling price =$600-1200)

    In response to conservative democrat: Money spent on cycling infrastructure is penny to a dollar. The licenses, the fees for road use...I dont agree with at all. The fees for registry would cost more in infrastructure to create than would actually create gains. It is very lover sighted.

    We need to attract more people to riding bikes, not the opposite.

    The infrastructure to fund bike and pedestrians is just 1% of the total transportation budget in Portland. 1% !!!

    Biking saves the public money with extremely low cost infrastructure, also keeping less cars on the roads that need to be maintained and become far more damaged as more people drive on those roads. The air is cleaner, congestion decreases, health of the community goes up (less money on medical needs due to poor exercise), and I know there are several other benefits.

    Those who do not drive still pay for subsidizing the automobile. Roads, Parking, Lights, Lane Painting, the list goes on and on and on. It is the most expensive form of transit that we all, whether we drive or not... pay very dearly for.

    Some basic bike lanes, trails, and even a full blown out Amsterdam style set up in Portland would still cost far far far less than the costs of supporting driving. The benefits of getting as many people safely and conveniently cycling more than several times outweighs the costs to make it happen.

  • Erik H. (unverified)

    Forget the bikes which rely on heavy transportation costs.

    Why not take all those athletic sportwear and shoe companies that like to be based in Oregon but not make a single damn thing here, and have them bring manufacturing back to Oregon.

    Then, give every Oregonian (man, woman and child) a $100 coupon good for shoes or other apparel made right here in Oregon.

    You create jobs that don't already exist, using residents that already exist and need the jobs, and minimize transportation costs as these goods no longer have to be imported from S.E. Asia. It'll encourage trade with Oregon which is severely lacking. And by encouraging the use of athletic apparel it'll encourage people to WALK, thus having significant health benefits (without all the negatives of biking - including increased accidental health care costs like broken bones and the like.)

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