Monday, January 21, 2008

Portland on Marketplace

I went down to the Iowa Bicycle Summit in Des Moines this past weekend. The Summit ran Friday and Saturday, so I drove down after work Thursday evening. On the way down, I was listening to NPR and on the Marketplace show and they had a segment called Portland's Support of Bikes Pays Off. It opens thus:
Imagine San Diego as one big peloton today. Thousands of cyclists are converging there for the Bicycle Leadership Conference. They'll be figuring out how to expand the bicycle market. One obvious answer: get more commuters to ride bikes to work. On that score, Portland, Oregon, is way out front of the pack. According to Bicycling Magazine, the city has the highest number of bike commuters in the country.
Apparently there's an Oregon state statute that any story on bicycling in Portland starts with the Zoobombers, and this one conforms. They talks about other companies and even Vanilla Bicycles, which I think are just about the most succulent of the custom frames out there. Ten grand now, and a five-year waiting list. Anyway, it's nice to see bicycles getting a bit o' coverage on a show mostly concerned with larger markets.

I'll be out sampling the Portland Bicycle Scene in a couple of weeks; I'm taking the Framebuilders Express out to Portland to go to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. I'm sure Vanilla will be there and the list might be six years by the time the show's done. It's going to be like getting on the list for Green Bay Packers season tickets--you'll need to sign up your unborn offspring.

A couple of items of note from the Iowa Bicycle Summit: Trek is doing an advocacy effort and apparently liked my blog name a lot. They've called theirs One World Two Wheels and have some nice non-Trek-specific advocacy materials. One of the things they wanted to do, but Clif Bar beat them to the punch, is a site like Clif's excellent 2 Mile Challenge, which shows people what's within 2 miles of home, and thus easily rideable. From Trek's point of view, getting more people to ride means selling more bicycles, and addressing the Practical Cycling arena is a way to expand these markets. I'll write more about the Iowa Bicycle Summit tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

$100 A Barrel

Was it really less than three years ago that President Bush took a nice romantic hand-holding walk with Crown Prince Abdullah to urge him to keep oil below $50 a barrel?

Yeah, that worked well.

Yesterday, a single oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange traded at $100.00 a barrel, and ten more traded at $99.90. That's within spittin' distance of the inflation-adjusted highest price ever of $102.81 a barrel, reached in April 1980. The Journal does a wonderful interactive grahic of this, with the green shading being the inflation-adjusted price. You can see the Journal's graphic here. Maybe Mr. Bush should have let the Prince get to second base.

I think we're in for a tough year or four. Not only are house prices dropping (and the real shitstorm of mortgage problems in the most bubblicious states still lie ahead of us), but plenty of people are eyeball-deep in car payments, too. This article in the L.A. Times called "New Cars That Are Fully-Loaded--With Debt" looks at this problem. Motor vehicles are the most expensive piece of depreciating consumer crap that most of us buy, and more and more people are getting underwater on these loans.

Part of the reason I haven't been blogging as much recently is the usual December Christmas crush and partly because I have spent a lot of time reading on what has been termed the Subprime Crisis but really is a broader credit crisis underlaid by financial institution solvency issues. What can I say, my degree's in Economics, my background is finance, and I like this stuff. If you want to follow along on this, I highly recommend the Calculated Risk blog. Note that this has nothing whatsoever to do with bicycles. If you'd rather hit yourself with a hammer than read about mortgage backed securities servicing agreements, Calculated Risk may not be the spot for you.