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"Borrow a Bike" - New Economic Stimulus Plan

April 1, 2008

This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. and switched on MSNBC. There was a round table discussion going on about the sad state of the economy. The Fed should be stepping in to clean up the mess. The government needs to help out the homeowners caught in the subprime market fiasco. Each day it seems to get a little worse. I wondered if the day would come when I had to sell one of my two motorcycle trikes just to keep my head above water.

Being retired and on a fixed income always means that you get deeper in the red as inflation increases. A dollar more here, two dollars more there, and suddenly there are no more dollars left.

But the next story on TV really caught my attention. Maybe there was a way out, especially for us who ride motorcycles.

This story was unbelievable! I had to get out of bed and go to my computer to check out MSNBC's Web site where all the details of the story were available. Here's the summary of the story as I listed it on my printer:

    The Department of Transportation released plans on Monday to create a new economic stimulus plan tailored to those who ride motorcycles. Transportation Secretary, Mary Peters, an avid motorcyclist herself, has been studying the increased costs to the total economy of having motorcyclists continuing to spend money to buy expensive motorcycles and maintain them only to let them sit in garages all over America without being used.

    "The average yearly mileage on a motorcycle is 2000 miles," said Peters. "Families are beginning to leave their motorcycles in the garage and shift back to using their cars. This is especially true where the big touring bikes are concerned. They're only getting 35 mpg whereas a motor scooter could be getting as much as 60 mpg. Since cars are getting nearly the same mileage as a Honda Gold Wing, people are piling their families in their cars and doing errands in one trip to save money at the pump. Something needed to be done to get riders back on the road, free up congestion, and reduce costs of motorcycle ownership. We also think that the big SUVs will soon be parked permanently and replaced by small cars and lots of motor scooters. That's why we are here today with some new ideas," said Peters.

    The new stimulus package will be called "Borrow a Bike." The plan is expected to help the struggling motorcycle companies that are having trouble selling motorcycles as well as providing cheap and economical transportation for the masses including motorcyclists.

    Under the "Borrow a Bike" plan, motorcycle companies would greatly accelerate production of their motor scooter models. These models will be fitted with built-in electronic tags readable by roadside scanners similar to the E-ZPass system on the East Coast. Companies would ship the motor scooters to their dealers. The dealers would program a local dealer ID into the tags to identify themselves. Then the motor scooters would be delivered throughout their franchise area to public spots where people live. Also affixed to the motor scooter will be a GPS unit whereby the machine can be tracked.

    The idea behind "Borrow a Scooter" is simple. Anyone can register online as a user. You'll be sent a key in the mail that will work in any motor scooter. The scooters will be completely automatic and simple to ride. However, the first time you attempt to use one of the scooters, you will be disallowed until you go to any dealer and take a short one hour course in motor scooter riding and get an unlock key. Then you are free to ride any motor scooter in the fleet.

    You can simply take any motor scooter you find and use it for your own. If the motor scooter is already being used by someone else, you won't be able to start it until they use their ID to make the motor scooter available again for public use.

    There will be a ticking clock on the total time you can possess a given motor scooter. Should the time expire, your ID won't work in this motor scooter but will in other scooters. Should you attempt to steal the motor scooter after your time on it expires, the GPS tracking will activate and police will locate it and place it back in public use. All the rules for public participation are still being worked on and will be finalized later.

    How will all this be paid for? Since the role of the federal government is to shift as much taxation back to the consumer as possible, the economics of the "Borrow a Bike" program are quite novel. Purchase of motor scooters, maintenance, and gasoline costs will be supported by a usage tax. Actually, it's a usage tax unlike any other yet devised. The E-ZPass-like tag on each scooter will be activated based on what the scooter rider does. The transportation will strictly be usage based. You pay nothing to buy the bike. You pay nothing to gas it up. You pay nothing to maintain it. You do, as usual, pay tolls if you pass through an E-ZPass-type toll booth.

    Well, you do end up paying later on when all the usage based costs come streaming in. For example, at the termination of any ride, a data stream is sent that records your mileage. You then pay a mileage charge on the spot that's charged to your credit card. The actual charge depends on how you ride. If you are aggressive and are using a lot of gas in acceleration, the cost will be higher. If you ride moderately and are getting good gas mileage, your cost will be lower.

    You can take your scooter home and leave it in the garage but it will send a signal of inactivity after awhile that will translate into another charge. After your allotted time has expired, you'll get a warning and have to take the scooter back to a scooter site and get another scooter. The concept is to keep the scooters moving and paying for their cost.

    The dealers will be getting a piece of the action to pay for the scooters. When a scooter needs repair, you take it to the closest dealer. Repair cost is added to the database for that scooter and goes to recalculating the cost per mile charged for everyone.

    Of course, the only time you are aware that the scooter transportation has a cost to you is when you see your credit card statement. Also, there may be a few additional charges tacked on.

    The federal government will get a few cents each time you pass by a traffic light. That will go to the upkeep of the roads.

    The state and federal governments will each get a few cents each time you gas up. You won't be paying for the gas but you will be required to pay the state and federal gasoline taxes as you go.

    The local government will get one cent each time you pass a hospital to defray the costs of expected skyrocketing medical costs associated with motor scooter traffic accidents.

    Each time you cross from one county to another, the receiving county gets one cent to handle costs associated with providing storage facilities for all the motor scooters in that county.

    Each time you pass another regular size motorcycle, a small amount is charged that goes to lessen the economic burden placed on the motorcycle dealers and manufacturers for having to favor motor scooters over motorcycles.

The "Borrow a Bike" economic stimulus package is the latest in a series of economic measures the Federal Government thinks will help the American people to bring about change. Of course, the next administration will probably have even better ideas if the current presidential campaigns are any indication.

In any event by April Fools Day, 2009, they'll probably be back with another economic stimulus package, already touted as "Hand Over Your Cash." That's going to eliminate all cash in favor of a tiny E-ZPass-like tag implanted in the top of your head that will allow you to pay for everything and have it charged to your beneficiaries and due for payment only after the reading of your last will and testament.

~Walter Kern

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