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Monday, November 24, 2008

Get $20/mth For Cycling To Work

Answers About The New Bike Commuter Benefit Program

by Larry Lagarde

After reporting last month on the passage of the Bicycle Commuter Act, commuters began asking more about how this cycling incentive will work. For answers, I reached out to the Act's primary sponsor (Congressman Blumenauer) as well as to Accor Services, a commuter benefits management company that is helping employers to offer the benefit to bicycle commuters. Here are the questions I submitted and the answers I received...

... from Congressman Blumenauer's office (see paragraphs below for the answers):
1. Can the benefit be any amount up to $20?
2. What documentation does Section 132(f) require of the business?
3. What documentation does Section 132(f) require of the bicycle commuter?
4. Is the bicycle commuter fringe benefit subject to state income tax?
5. How does the bicycle commuter benefit affect Social Security?
6. How does the bicycle commuter benefit affect federal with holding?

Q1. Can the benefit be any amount up to $20?
A: The employer can offer any amount they want on the benefit, however, the employee can only receive up to $20/mth with the tax exclusion. So if your employer offers you $40 a month, you can collect all $40. However, you will be paying income taxes on $20 of that. If your employer wants to offer you only $15/mth then you would receive all of that $15 without paying taxes on it.

Q2. What documentation does Section 132(f) require of the business?
A: This will be decided by the IRS when they write the new tax code. However it is most likely that the IRS will require the same sort of documentation they require of employers now who offer any type of transit/parking fringe benefit. Most employers take those costs, and write them off as part of their business expenses. We expect the employer would add the cost to the same "cost of business" write-offs they take now. Again, this legislation only affects the tax status of the benefit for the employee, not the employer.

Q3. What documentation does Section 132(f) require of the bicycle commuter?
A: It will be up to the employer to decide what documentation the employee must offer to receive this benefit. In many cases, employers make employees sign a written agreement that states that they are commuting each day and adhere to the provisions of the statute. It might be that an employer makes administers the benefit through reimbursements that require receipts. As the employer is absorbing the cost of offering the benefit, it us up to them to come up with their own internal implementation system.

Q4. Is the bicycle commuter fringe benefit subject to state income tax?
A: This would vary from state to state on whether state governments tax transportation fringe benefits. We don't know where every state stands on that issue, but the bicycle commuter benefit would receive the same tax treatment as other transportation fringe benefits (i.e. parking, transit, and vanpooling benefits).

Q5. How does the bicycle commuter benefit affect Social Security?
A: We don't believe the bike benefit affects Social Security at all, except that there will be a small amount of forgone taxes to the U.S. government.

Q6. How does the bicycle commuter benefit affect federal with holding?
A: For the employee, they will not have taxes withheld on the bike benefit, up to $20 a month. IF they receive more than $20, than the difference would be subject to the same federal withholdings as the rest of your salary.

... from Accor Services (see paragraphs below for the answers):
1. What is Accor doing to help employers offer or manage bicycle benefits?
2. What exactly is a Commuter Check for Bicycling?
3. Can commuters receive vouchers for cycling as well as for other non-cycling commuting expenses?
4. Who pays for the Commuter Check service?
5. Why would an employer purchase commuter checks?
6. When will the Commuter Check for Bicycling program start?
7. Can monthly Bicycling vouchers be combined to make a larger purchase?

Q1. What is Accor doing to help employers offer or manage bicycle benefits?
A: Accor is offering a Commuter Check for Bicycling program.

Q2. What exactly is a Commuter Check?
A: Commuter Checks are primarily vouchers that are redeemable for transit costs associated with Section 132(f) of the IRS federal tax code - transit passes, tickets and tokens as well as vanpool fares, commuter parking expenses and (now) commuter bicycle expenses.

Q3. Can commuters receive vouchers for cycling as well as for other non-cycling commuting expenses?
A: According to the Bicycle Commuter Act and the tax code, a commuter cannot receive the bicycling benefit and a benefit for using mass transit, etc. in the same month; however, it would be possible to receive a voucher for use with mass transit one month and a voucher for bicycling expenses the following month.

Q4. Who pays for the Commuter Check service?
A: The employer.

Q5. Why would an employer purchase Commuter Checks for Bicycling?
A: Commuter Check for Bicycling is a ready product that makes it easy for employers to offer and administer a new, eco friendly, fringe benefit to employees. As a result, the program can improve employer-employee relations while helping employees to exercise and reduce pollution. Ultimately, both the employer and the employees save money in the form of lower health related costs and lower federal payroll/income taxes.

Q6. When will the Commuter Check for Bicycling program start?
A: The voucher program is expected to begin when the law takes affect on January 1, 2009.

Q7. Can Bicycling vouchers be combined to make a larger purchase?
A: Bicycle commuters can use up to 13 consecutive months of their Commuter Check for Bicycling vouchers to make a larger purchase. Additionally, bicycle commuters can use their vouchers as partial payment on an allowed purchase.


Friday, November 21, 2008

A Bicycle Renaissance

Cycling Becomes A Real Transportation Alternative

by Larry Lagarde

In towns and cities across the nation, there's a change in the air. It may be a subtle breeze at the moment but communities are improving their bicycle infrastructure, making bicycles a practical & fun transportation alternative and sparking a true bicycle renaissance in the process. (Image right: bikeways in Lower Manhattan)

Studies have shown that when it's safer and more convenient to get around by bike, more people go cycling, lowering motor vehicle congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while fitness improves and neighborhoods are revitalized. Still swooning from the effects from Katrina, this could be just what New Orleans needs to flower again.

The Big Easy has long held the potential for being a bicycle friendly community. Flat and compact, New Orleans should be ideal for living car free; however, a gumbo of issues has prevented all but the most determined cyclists from using their bicycles for more than occasional recreation. But the situation is improving considerably.

Over the next 2 years, 50 miles of new bike paths and lanes will connect city neighborhoods in a bicycle network that will allow most New Orleans residents to commute by bike.

Wisner Bike Path - pic by Chris GrangerLast month, New Orleans' new Wisner Bike Path (a beautiful & car free concrete path alongside Bayou St. John) finally opened. Earlier this year, the brand new Robert E. Lee Blvd bike path and lane opened as well as the St. Claude commuter bike lane into Downtown.

Over the next year, work will begin on the exciting Lafitte Corridor bike path and linear park connecting the French Quarter to Delgado College, City Park & Lakeview. Additionally, New Orleans' director of Public Works Robert Mendoza noted recently that the Robert E Lee bike lane should reach within a few short blocks of the University of New Orleans campus and that 2 additional bike lanes on major connector routes should be complete by this time next year.

Eighth Avenue Bike Track - New York CityYet New Orleans is not alone. With half of all trips people make in the US being no longer than 3 miles long, it should come as no surprise that major improvements in bicycle infrastructure are taking place across the nation.

Look at New York City. The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, Eighth Avenue cycle track (photo right), Broadway Bikeway and various other bike lanes are all soon to be complete. Had Mayor Bloomberg gotten his way, even more projects would be taking place.

To spotlight all the bike paths, lanes and routes that are being created in the USA, I plan to post updates regularly with info about various projects and links to additional info. Stay tuned...

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Folding Bikes & Bike Trailers

by Larry Lagarde

As practical as folding bikes are for commuting or running errands, there are limitations when it comes to toting goods (such as groceries) on any bicycle, especially a compact fold up bicycle like the Carry Me, E-Z Pack, Kent Compact Nexus or Mobiky. In such cases, attaching a trailer to your bike can work wonders.

Compact Nexus folding bicycle w/bike trailer attached

By placing the weight of your cargo on the trailer instead of the bike, the right cargo trailer can maximize the practicality of your bike. You'll gain stability & responsiveness, reduce your carbon footprint and avoid breaking spokes, warping rims or blowing tires.

After trying a variety, the bike trailer I like best for carrying cargo is Tony Hoar's Grocery Getter (GG). The GG is unique for a variety of reasons.

Watertight, Practical Cargo Container
The Grocery Getter's frame is built to cradle an 18 gallon RubberMaid tote. The result is a weatherproof cargo container that is stackable, easy/economical to replace and a breeze to remove (so goods can be carried right into your house without walking back and forth several times). With a carry capacity of 150 lbs, chances are that the GG can hold more than you would ever want to pull. And if the tote cracks, Walmart normally has them for $6.

Stable Transportation Platform
The GG transports cargo between two 16" wheels, allowing cargo to be carried with a lower and far more stable center of gravity. The hitch is mounted to the seat post instead of the rear axle, allowing the trailer to track properly when turning and turn in less space. And if you have a folding bike with small wheels, the GG's seat post mount allows the trailer to attach when other trailers never could.

Less Packaging & Handling Needed
Unhitch the Grocery Getter from your bike and it becomes a hand cart (the hitch bar has foam padding so you can pull or push the trailer comfortably by hand). About the same width as a standard sized shopping cart, the trailer is easy to manuever down the grocery aisle. Once you're done with the cashier, the purchases remain in the cargo tote until you're ready to put them away in the pantry, making it possible to completely forego the epic "paper or plastic" issue.

Stores Compactly
The Grocery Getter's designed so that all parts of the trailer will fit inside the RubberMaid tote for storage.

Ultimately, having the right trailer will increase your opportunities for cycling, giving you more enjoyment, keeping you fitter and reducing your carbon footprint even more.

Priced at about $300, the Grocery Getter is a good value for the ways it can improve your life but it's not cheap. Tony and I have been talking about ways to reduce the cost while improving the product. Mass production with tight quality controls would do it but the start up costs for that are daunting.

Ultimately, the answer lies with consumers like you. What would you pay for a cargo trailer that goes just about anywhere. Post a comment with your answer now. Who knows; you just may get your wish in 2009.

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Negotiating The Hanoi Traffic Jam - Part 2

Folding Bikes Take Their Place In Post-Modern Indochina
Part II

By Richard Pierce

Editor's Note: This is the 2nd part of a story about the state of urban transportation in Hanoi, Vietnam. In this portion of his story, Richard gives his answer regarding how to encourage Indochina's consumers to embrace green, non-polluting transportation - lead by example. If you missed it, here's a link to Part I of his story.

The history involved in answering that question is far more than any folding bicycle ever asked for and only evokes terms like "murky", "nebulous", and "confusing". The Indochina Wars proved the socio-political volatility of the region and it is obviously not an environment conducive to high-minded talk of saving the air. It is impossible to give the details without sounding like an Orwell paper, but here goes.

The French colonial era (and I'm already omitting 1,000 years of Chinese occupation before the French) gave way to World War II, which, in Asia, was exacerbated by a policy among the last governors of screwing things up as much as possible. Then there was a brief Japanese occupation, which sparked a famine in Vietnam. East Asia, except for a few Islands of British hegemony like Singapore and Hong Kong (and a de-fanged Japan under US control), then devolved into communism. That then failed due to incompetent land reform and corruption, and the Soviets had to prop Vietnam up with subsidies, which they promptly withdrew in 1986, forcing the country to quietly go capitalist.

No one's quite sure how it's all being governed now. Assume all of the above minus the Soviets. That leaves an absolutely gigantic mass of people, 85 million by last count, trying to make sense of their world, make a little money, and enjoy themselves before the next war. What does that mean in terms of trying to get more people on folding bikes?

The murky explanation has to resume for a bit here: the Vietnamese were already riding bicycles because they had no choice, until, again, 1986. (Remember all those photos in the news magazines in your parents' attic, of young women in ao dai dress pedaling through the rice paddy?) Then came the US' and other bilateral trade agreements, and with them the fleeting prosperity of today, which people demonstrate by buying a motorbike or car. Most Vietnamese would just as soon never be seen on a bicycle again and there is virulent disdain among the nouveau riche for real peasants in their conical hats, flooding onto the cities, hawking tomatoes from rusted-out, brake-less three-speeds that may very well have the ones in those photos.

The average age in Vietnam is around 30 now, they are more highly paid, and they love expensive European things. Even though they still live at home with several generations of the family, they will spend all of their money on a five-thousand dollar Vespa just to be seen on Saturday night. But there may be a way to make use of having entrained 85 million people in Western consumerism.

I do see more folding bikes each day, although people still think they're for children, paint them bright colors, and install plastic spoke covers with teddy bears, flowers, or lightning bolts on them. I want to believe, however, that these kids will grow up and remember their folders fondly, and somewhere in this spun-around little world, associate them with reduced carbon emissions. A lot, however, has to happen first, like broadcasting the message in awareness-raising campaigns that motor vehicles create harmful emissions and bicycles don't.

The United Nations Environment Program, IUCN, WWF, and some others are tapping young people too, and they're finding that there is a healthy respect for sustainable development. It's just a sprig now, and survives entirely on foreign funding, but it is there and the Vietnamese will probably take the ball and run with it as their cities are increasingly flooded during the monsoon by rains that even they have never witnessed in thousands of years of living next to a shallow, warm sea.

Two weeks ago, Hanoi had its worst flooding in 20 years and I saw, for the first time in my life, a drowned person. It was in a small lake in my neighborhood that had overflowed, by coincidence, the same lake that John McCain had parachuted into before they put him in the old Maison Centrale, the 'Hanoi Hilton', also called Hoa Lo Prison (which now has an office tower financed by Singapore at one end and a refurbished guillotine at the other to show the tourists).

The key is to get people to see that their personal transport is the place to start. They haven't reached the stage where they are asking themselves what effect the gasses coming out their tailpipes have on their own air, and that would be the natural place to insert folding bikes. But style is everything here, and while images of chiseled Dutch men and women tooling to work on their bikes in Amsterdam may exert some kind of influence on the psyche of the emerging Asian super-class, it still isn't as cool as a pink Vespa.

So I take it one commute at a time. I ride my Dahon, made, ironically, here in Asia, through the middle of the traffic jams and people get a kick out of it. The bike advertises itself and people treat me better. They recognize immediately that it's practical. The Vietnamese also love quirky gadgets that you can pack up and take into your 10sq.m flat. But will folding bikes ever have a meaningful opportunity to prove themselves amid the mind-boggling urbanization? Based on what I've observed, yes.

It's already nearly impossible to get through intersections on a good day and permanent gridlock is not far off. In which case, there is little more we need do other than continue riding through those traffic jams on our folders. In a hundred years they'll look back and call it the "Folding Revolution".

Richard Pierce is in Hanoi doing work for Family Health International (FHI), one of the largest and most established nonprofit organizations active in international public health. FHI's mission is to improve lives worldwide through research, education, and services in family health. To learn more, visit FHI.org. By the way, Richard ordered an E-Z Pack folding bike because he wanted something lighter and more compact than the Dahon he's been using.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Negotiating The Hanoi Traffic Jam

Folding Bikes Take Their Place In Post-Modern Indochina

by Richard Pierce

I live and work in Hanoi, Vietnam and I commute to work on a folding bicycle. If you've been to Hanoi recently, or have seen it in the news, you'd probably say that this is tantamount to suicide, and you'd be correct. As Asian cities develop, the streets are literally becoming impassable with motorbikes and cars. Infrastructure is not catching up because inept officials steal or waste all of the funding before it goes where it's supposed to, and each day more and more people stuff themselves onto roads that are not growing to accommodate them. They regard red lights as an electric thing next to the road that makes a nice color as they blow past.

Then at the other extreme there is Bangkok, now 'over-developed', which doesn't suffer so much from inept planning as from a penchant for directing eight-lane motorways through the city center at ground level. This creates too much space, which invites another problem: when there is a freak instance of open road, cars immediately accelerate to triple digits as if it were possible to go faster than the earth is spinning and get back to where you would have been were there no initial delay. In Jakarta, meanwhile, it takes two hours minimum to get anywhere by taxi during rush hour and people miss entire meetings just to cover a few hundred meters. (By the way, none of this is researched or fact-checked. I live it.)

The air pollution is beyond belief in all of these places. At stoplights here in Hanoi the fumes actually distort your vision like the heat off a desert road and I once saw a lorry driver roll down his window and vomit for lack of real air. Public transport is too little too late and in most cases just makes things worse particularly because city traffic authorities buy used busses from post-developed cities with diesel engines that have already done several hundred thousand miles and definitely smell like it.

Riding through the middle of this is me on my 'folder', one less person worth of crowding and carbon monoxide. I would obviously like to stop being a minority, but how do you tell people who have been poor for centuries, attacked, invaded, colonized, and ruled by despots that just as soon as they get enough cash in pocket to improve their lot with personal motorized transport, they can't because the West has already brought us to the brink?

Editor's Note: For Richard's answer, see Part Two of his story.

About Richard Pierce
Richard Pierce is in Hanoi doing work for Family Health International (FHI), one of the largest and most established nonprofit organizations active in international public health. FHI's mission is to improve lives worldwide through research, education, and services in family health. To learn more, visit FHI.org.

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Folding Bikes In Emerging Economies

Going Against The Flow

by Larry Lagarde

Last month, Richard Pierce, a Family Health International aid worker in Vietnam contacted me. He was looking for a good quality folding bike but all the folding bicycles available at shops in Hanoi were of very low quality. He wanted something that was beefier and would hold up on the rough streets of Vietnam's capital. Specifically, he wanted to purchase an E-Z Pack folding bike. He wrote...
I've discovered that the bikes that China makes for Western markets and those that it makes for Southeast Asian markets are two vastly different things. There is one single model of folder available here in every single shop and it's rubbish. They just paint it a different color and put a different nonsense label on it, or worse, a fake "Dahon" label. The quality of the welds, the paint, the quality of the plastic, etcetera, it's all low. As soon as you get it home it starts to break.

By the way, if you're wondering why the surge in popularity of folding bikes worldwide, based on what I've seen here in Asia: overcrowded roads, pollution, and hard economic times. People actually have no choice.
Initially, I was skeptical; however, over the course of some correspondence, I realized that the request was real. We were able to work out the details and I shipped the bike off but with one request - that he write me more about the transportation situation in Hanoi. And he did.

Yesterday, I received an amazing story of what it is like trying to get from place to place within Hanoi. Titled "Negotiating The Hanoi Traffic Jam: Folding Bikes Take Their Place In Post-Modern Indochina", the story is a telling reminder of the huge challenge the world faces regarding the reduction of pollution, congestion and global climate change.

Due to the story's length, I'm publishing it in 2 parts. Here is a link to Part One. If you have a moment, it's definitely worth reading.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

1st Glance - 2009 Nexus Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

The 2009 Kent Compact Nexus (Superlite Aluminum) 3 speed folding bikes have arrived here. I pulled one from its shipping carton and went for a short ride this evening. Here are my impressions.

The Kent Compact Nexus is a basic, no nonsense, bike that folds for easy storage and/or transport on buses, subway, etc. Designed for commuters, boaters and for running errands in the neighborhood, this sturdy folding bike has an exceptionally low pass through, making it easy to mount and dismount. The bicycle is equipped with an adjustable height folding handlebar stem and seat post, rear carry rack, fenders, kickstand and folding pedals.

The Compact Nexus folding bike ships completely assembled. Including all the standard accessories, the bike weighs about 26 lbs, making it light enough to pick up and carry when needed (such as going up/down stairs).

No Assembly Required
Once I pulled the bike from the carton, it was simply a matter of pumping up the tires and tightening bits left loose to prevent damage during shipping (such as the quick releases, brake lever handle, grip shifter and reflectors). Ten minutes after opening the carton, I was riding the bike.

First Ride Impressions
I only had a moment so I simply rode the bike down the street. The bike shifted perfectly into every gear. Although the coaster brake and front brake worked well, there was some squeal from the coaster brake (but this should disappear with use).The bike accelerates well and appears to cruise at about 14 mph. Once I put the GPS on and go for a longer ride, I'll know more. Hopefully, that will be tomorrow.

Love the Nexus drivetrain; it's simple, efficient and quiet.
Brakes function well; coaster brake allows for long lasting, hands free braking.
Upright ride is comfortable; frame geometry offers good power transfer.
Low pass through makes it easy to get on or off the bike.
Beefy handlebar stem means less stem flex.
Nice blue color.

Fenders are cheap plastic; they'll do but wish they were nicer.
Stock folding pedals are single sided and heavy (optional, lighter dual sided pedals available though).

Most Similar Folding Bike
The Dahon Curve D3 is the closest folding bike to the Kent Compact Nexus. I find the Kent's Nexus hub superior to the Curve's Sturmey Archer (but only slightly). The Dahon comes standard with higher pressure tires (for a faster cruising speed), better fenders and an air pump BUT the Dahon is TWICE THE PRICE too. If you're looking for great value and practicality, the Kent Compact Nexus is the bike to buy.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Desert Sand Folding Bike Carry Bag

A Desert Camo Carry Bag For The Paratrooper Folding Mountain Bike

Montague Paratrooper Folding Bikeby Larry Lagarde

There are times when customers ask me for unusual products. Recently, a U.S. soldier deployed in Iraq wanted a camo colored carry bag for his Montague Paratrooper folding bike. Although Montague makes a great carry bag (they call it a soft case), the Montague bag is black with either "MONTAGUE" or "SWISSBIKE" in big, bold, white letters -not the best color scheme for desert warfare, bow hunting, etc.

Today, a firm that makes nylon back packs contacted me looking for some business and it got me thinking about making a desert camo or green camo colored carry bag for the full size folding mountain bikes from Montague. Montague Soft Case Folding Bike CarrybagI asked the back pack manufacturer if they could come up with something for me and I hope to have an answer soon. The real question though is whether there's enough demand for such a specialty product.

Would you buy a camo colored carry bag for your folding bike? To produce a product like this at a fair price will take more than a couple of orders from a few Special Forces guys... The target price is a max of $149. If you're interested, just let me know.

By the way, another question I get is whether I can paint the Paratrooper, SwissBike LX or one of the other less costly Montague folding bikes (like the Montague CX) in desert cammy. This is something that I've toyed with doing. It does require pulling parts to do it right and the rear rim sidewall cannot be painted; however, I'm game if enough people are interested.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Kent Compact Nexus 3 Folding Bike

New 2009 Kent Compact Nexus 3 Folding Bikes Now In USA

by Larry Lagarde

After months of restless waiting, the latest Kent 16" folding bikes have finally arrived at Kent's main U.S. warehouse. Known as the Kent Compact Nexus 3, this folding bicycle is essentially the same bike as the Kent Compact 16-6; however, it has the quiet, maintenance free, Shimano Nexus internal gear hub (3 speed model). The other 2 differences are that the Kent Compact Nexus 3 also has a rear coaster brake instead of a rear v-brake and is blue in color.

Since RideTHISbike.com is the exclusive retailer for the Kent Compact Nexus folding bike, Kent will begin shipping these to me on Monday. I expect to begin shipping bikes to customers within a week of having these bikes in stock.

To kick off the launch of this great little folding bike, I've decided to include the optional carry bag FREE of charge for all orders received within the next 14 days. That's right - you'll receive a sturdy, practical and light aluminum alloy folding bike with carry rack, padded comfort seat, fenders, kickstand, adjustable height & foldable handlebar stem, carry bag AND shipping (within the USA lower 48 states) all for just $259.

Without a doubt, the Kent Compact Nexus is THE BEST VALUE folding bike for your money. To get a bike of similar quality and components, you'd have to pay twice the price.

Due to the high demand for Nexus gear hubs, only a small number of these bikes were produced. If you want one, place your order now.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Opportunities Amid Panic And Uncertainty

by Larry Lagarde

Like an impenetrably thick cloud of dust, panic and uncertainty linger over the world's economies.

In the wake of deepening world recession and the most serious international financial crisis in most lifetimes, people around the globe have been cashing in their holdings of rubles, yuan, pesos, rupees, etc. for positions in the good 'ole US dollar. According to some sources, 1000's of factories in emerging economies like China are closing every week. What is the average Joe to do? Look for opportunity because buddy, it's knocking.

Exhibit 1: Barack Obama
Barack Obama has rocketed out of nowhere to become the first black president of the USA. Using a steady call for change, Obama accomplished the seemingly impossible by capturing the attention and imagination of the young and disenfranchised. As the savings of America's middle class evaporated into the ether, Obama's call came to resonate across the board, leading to a landslide victory. But Obama's message has reverberated beyond the boundaries of the USA. Now, the world is looking to Obama with hope towards better times.

Exhibit 2: $2/gal Gasoline
Since the 1970's, rising crude oil prices have been triggers in 5 out of 6 global economic recessions. Once crude prices begin to fall, every global recession in at least 30 years has ended within 3 years. With crude plummeting from it's all time high this July of $147/barrel to it's current price of $62, the clock on this recession has begun to wind down. Why? Because sharply lower transportation costs makes it cheaper to bring goods to market, giving manufacturers room to lower prices, stimulating sales and profits.

Exhibit 3: DOW Industrial Average Leveling Out
The DOW Industrial Average has been going nuts since 1994, trading from 4000 to over 11000 in just 5 years. After readjusting in 2002-2003, it began climbing like crazy again, rising in October '07 to a never before seen high of over 14000. Obviously, a realignment was coming and the one we had last month was huge but there is reason for hope. The DOW has risen 1000 points from its October 27th low of 8175, due to the resolve that was displayed by the U.S. federal government via the huge $700+ billion bailout package.

Nobody knows how long the economic crisis will continue or how bad it will get; however, things are already improving. Companies are becoming leaner and more productive. People are refining their job skills to increase job opportunities in our innovation and tech driven world. The war in Iraq will soon end, freeing hundreds of billions in tax revenues from being thrown away in Iraq. The development of affordable, alternative energy solutions will decrease dependence on foreign oil and the transfer of America's wealth to the nut jobs of the world. Housing prices are stabilizing, costs of living are falling and healthcare will improve.

The key really is change. We as a people must be more prudent with our wealth, investing in our future by increasing savings and decreasing what we owe. We need to live within our means rather than mortgage our kids' futures. Instead of paying dues to a health club, ride your bike regularly to work. With the newly passed Bicycle Commuter Act, you can even get a bike for free courtesy of reimbursements through your employer. This could even lead to doing away with your car completely, saving most people $8000-15000/yr (per AAA). My point is that we all need to act with more responsibility. The sooner we do, the sooner this mess will be over.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

UK Gadget Show Reviews Folding Bikes

Brompton vs. Strida vs. SwissBike LX

The Gadget Show (a television program that is produced for the UK's Channel 5) recently did a comparative video review of folding bikes from Brompton, Strida and SwissBike.

For the review, show host Jon Bentley enlisted the help of Rebecca Romero, the female cyclist that took the Gold at the 2008 summer Olympics in Bejing. Jon and Rebecca each rode a Brompton M3L, Strida 5.0 and a SwissBike LX and traded impressions of each bike while they rode.

As the winner, they chose the Brompton for it's "classic, timeless looks", ease of folding/unfolding and ride; however, the SwissBikeLX was a close second place. The reason: the SwissBike's larger folded size, the need to remove the front wheel and the bike didn't roll when folded. They did like the SwissBike's ride and the SwissBike was the only one they could ride off road.

Watch the full folding bike review



Voting Via Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

When are you going to vote today?

All across the USA today, it's decision time. Chances are, if you see a long line of people spilling out of a public school, etc., they're probably waiting to cast their vote for president. But many have already voted in this historic election.

At 9am this morning, I was ordering a new skylight at Home Depot (replacing one that was damaged by Hurricane Gustav). Two of the three cashiers I spoke with had voted. One was in line at the polls at 4:40am. The polling location didn't open until 6am and she was the 8th person in line.

Without a doubt, there's a lot of excitement over this election. In Florida, 38% of registered voters voted early - AMAZING! At 10 am this morning (a time when activity at the polls is typically low), I passed my polling place on the way home and there must have been 100 people in line.

It's just after 2:15pm now and in a few minutes, I'll be heading back out on my folding bike to cast my vote. Regardless who wins, the USA will have either it's first "black" president or woman vice president. Whether this feel good moment really matters in the big picture remains to be seen but I'm playing my small role regardless. I encourage you to do the same.

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