02/19/2009 04:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Spend Your Stimulus on a Bike - Or, 5 Ways Folding Bikes Can Save the Planet

Thus far, over at the Stimulus Bike blog, about 50 people have pledged to spend tax cut benefits they receive as a result of the stimulus bill on bikes - new bicycle equipment for themselves or even a purchase of a bike for other friends or family.

This is an idea whose time has come. While lawmakers and companies struggle mightily to keep the car industry as we have known it afloat, it seems to be another example of the short-term societal thinking that Jared Diamond warns us about in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

Cars just aren't sustainable if every citizen in the world, every newly-minted 16-year old, every new soccer mom, demands to have one - it would eventually give us global gridlock and more pollution, even if the cars were purely electric.

Fitting a bike (and pedestrian) culture alongside a car culture (and vice-versa) is work, and it requires thought, it requires planning, and what it really requires is validation by lawmakers and money-spenders that this is a good idea.

Portland Representative Earl Blumenauer said in a recent /">Streetsblog video that during stimulus negotiations the bicycle didn't get that much respect:

Unfortunately some key [Congressional] leaders somehow seized on cycling as a symbol of green wonkishness that wasn't worthy of support. I think that's foolish...Biking isn't partisan!

Blumenauer basically says that all of us need to do a good job in our own cities and regions showing what's possible. And the easiest way to do that in the realm of transportation? A folding bike.

Photo of a Strida on a bus via richardmasoner @ flickr.

Folding bikes are starting to come in lots of different flavors. And they can help a whole new segment of the population get involved with short-hop biking, as they:

1) Have a small footprint - don't take up scarce apartment real estate where space is at a premium in cities. They can hang in closets and be ready to grab and go.

2) Travel easily - some folding bikes can roll when they are folded (which is a lot easier than carrying a bike), such as onto and off of escalators.

3) Travel far and wide - folding bikes can fit in the back of cabs, onto trains and into the subways. They can accompany you on flights to be ready at your destination.

4) Folding bikes bridge the gaps left in public transport - In many areas, such as the San Francisco Bay Area region, a bike is the best way to travel that last half mile where the commuter trains don't go and the other options are sporadic.

5) Folding bikes as a technology is still in its teenagerhood, leaving plenty of room for them to become even better suited to meeting more and more diffuse transport needs. For example, a folding bike that converts into a 3-bag grocery carrier? A folding bike-to-baby stroller? There's another good one.

When everyone has access to a bike, be it a folding bike, a bike share, or the cool cruiser you bought with your stimulus check, the transport world will definitely be a better place.

More from TreeHugger on folding bikes
::Buy Green: Small Wheel Folding Bikes
::Buy Green: Large Wheel Folding Bikes
::Strida Folding Bike Update: Three New Models, New Colors for Spring 2009
::Trend Watch: Multi-Modal Commuting With Folding Bikes
::That's Folding: Cube's Urban Street Folding Bike