Friday, July 31, 2009

'Bills for Bikes' Program to Follow 'Cash for Clunkers'

The White House will announce a new "Bills for Bikes" program Friday following the unexpectedly overwhelming popularity of the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

The latter program provided up to $4,500 credit for car buyers who traded in high emission, low mileage vehicles and purchased more fuel efficient ones. One billion dollars had been provided for the program, which was expected to last until Nov. 1 or after 250,000 cars had been sold, whichever came first. The program began July 24.

Car dealerships and jalopy owners are holding out hope that additional funds for the program will be forthcoming.

But in the meantime, the White House hopes to entice motorcycle riders with a similar program. Motorcycle and scooter riders who bring in their two-wheelers will get $200 in cash if they buy a new bicycle or a Segway. Although Congress has not appropriated any money for the program yet, the White House is expected to reallocate money from the large Defense Department budget and justify it with a roundabout claim of national defense and reducing oil consumption.

Bikes have zero emissions and Segways have no emissions when operated though they do require an electrical recharge. But they still are three times more efficient than the highest mileage scooters, according to the company that produces them.

A White House aide speaking on the condition of anonymity because the program had not yet been announced said that it had bipartisan support. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Jack Kingston, R-Ga., avid bike riders, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., a Segway enthusiast, will join President Obama in announcing the program Friday.

They had originally planned to have the lawmakers circle around the White House garden before the press conference but changed plans after worries that the bike-riding lawmakers would crash into camera equipment or that the Segway in action would look too dorky.

The program is expected to cost a scant $50 million, or the equivalent of 25,000 bikes.

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