Unless you have been living under a rock lately, the United States Automobile Industry has been given a bit of a kick by the boys in Washington with the 'Cash for Clunkers' program, in which those who are driving less than friendly death boxes can trade them and get a nice rebate of $3,500-4,500, if you are approved have you.
By no means do I want to completely slam this program because it is allowing more fuel efficient vehicles on the road which is very much needed. As we all know this is not fixing the petro-addiction the U.S. has and is acting more like temporary fix, although it is a start though in solving this complex problem.
I recently read about Canada's version of the program called 'Retire you Ride' and before you assume anything. I am by no means idolizing Canadian legislation and am not threatening to move there if a similar program is not put into place here. I love the U.S. and am patiently waiting for Alec Baldwin, Robert Altman, and Eddie Vedder to head north after stating to move there if Bush was re-elected in 2004 [and on a side note, props to Johnny Depp, he moved to France, talk about a man of his word].
What intrigued me by Canada's program was that it seems to be much broader approaching to solving the addiction/environmental issues of having the ol' rust buckets still in commission. Their plan is to 'give [Canadians] rewards that encourage [them] to use environmentally-friendly transportation, including a public transit pass or a membership to a car-sharing program, $300 cash or a rebate on the purchase of a 2004 and newer vehicle.'
This is more than a simple car exchange program that we have, where we are essentially keeping the same number of cars on the road [and as you probably already noticed the Canadian government is not giving as enticing of an offer as both the German and U.S. governments are of nearly $4,000 for trade in, which I do feel is a whole other issue]. The Canadian government is promoting public transit and car pooling and in all the provinces they are offering 'a discount of $350.00 to $490.00 off of a high-end commuter bicycle as well as up to 15% off parts and services'. And this is what I do want to focus on.
This part of the program is lead by the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada and I believe is a great way of not overlooking the other small businesses and local infrastructure in a country. This part of the program spreads benefits to more local business which in turn, reinvest money into their communities. 'A study conducted by Andersonville Development Corporation in Chicago shows that for every $100 spent at a national chain only $43 stays in the community. If that same $100 is spent at locally owned independent stores $68 stays in the community.' [article]. Like it or not the automobile companies are big businesses and are not often local. If you live outside of the handful of states that actually manufacture this small fraction of approved vehicles in the program, very little of YOUR money that YOU spent, stays local.
Sure, this is a doubled bladed sword because many of the products/items that we use in our daily life are not made stateside or local but that does not negate the fact that the more spent at locally owned independent stores [like your LOCAL bike shop!] keeps the money here and moves more through the community, empowering towns and cities to grow, and individuals to create and to innovate; which in turn leads to lasting change in the culture of the towns, cities, and country!
A tip of the hat to Canada for attempting to look beyond short term success and strive for lasting change. Change always has to start some where.