Obey the Sharrow!

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a bike (bicycle). I’ll never forget my first one, a Schwinn Phantom like the one in the photograph. My dad found it at an auction, a public meeting where items are sold to the person who offers the most money for them. It was in great shape (good condition) and we were able to get it (buy it) for only $15.00. They cost $85.00 in the bicycle shop!

We worked out an agreement: Dad would pay $7.50 and I would earn money to pay the other $7.50 by doing odd jobs (little regular jobs) around the house. At first, I was too short to sit on the saddle (seat). So until I became tall enough, I sat on a small pillow on the crossbar (the top tube of the bicycle frame.)

I rode that bike for many years until, finally, I gave it to my little brother. Later, I switched to a road bike, a bike with narrow (small) tires and designed for riding long-distances on smooth roads. Unfortunately, my bike-riding career came to an abrupt (sudden) end a few months ago when someone got into my garage and stole my nice road bike. Hopefully I’ll be able to replace it (get a new one) before too long (soon).

Two articles about bicycles grabbed (caught; got) my attention recently. The first was an article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper about the sharrows (see photo in article) that are being painted on streets used by both cars and bicycles in Santa Monica. Sharrows are a special kind of arrow, a symbol (a shape that has a meaning) painted on the street. Sharrows tell automobile drivers that they have to share the road with bicycle riders. I understand that sharrows are common in some European cities, but they are new in the United States.

Americans don’t use bicycles for commuting (riding to work) as much as people in other countries. But the number is growing, and many cities are creating bicycle lanes (a part of the road for only bicycles) or shared roads, like Santa Monica, to make bicycle commuting easier and safer. Irvine, a small city in southern California has almost 300 miles of bicycle lanes!

The second article, in the Economist, tells about the growing number of rent-a-bike services that are popping up (appearing) in cities around the world. In Mexico City, for example, the new Ecobici service provides about 1200 pay-as-you-go bicycles at 85 docking stations around the city.

A pay-as-you-go bicycle is a bicycle that you rent for each use, or trip, with cash or a credit card. A docking station is a machine that holds the bicycles and keeps them locked up until someone rents them. Perhaps you’ve seen docking stations at airports, where travelers use them to rent luggage carts. To rent a bicycle, you put your cash or credit card into the docking station, which then releases, or unlocks, one of the bicycles so you can use it. When you get to your destination (where you are going), you leave it at the nearest docking station so someone else can use it.

The London Transport Authority and Barclays Bank will introduce a new rent-a-bike program with 6,000 bicycles and 120 docking stations on July 30. The most successful program is the Velib in Paris, which has 20,000 bicycles. In some German cities you can even use your cell phone to rent a bike.

Who knows, if the bicycle commuting trend (the way a situation is changing or developing) continues to grow in Southern California, my next bike may be a commuter bike. In fact, I think I already know which one I want to get!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you can learn how to acquire more English.

Photo by Wha’ppen used by permission under Creative Commons license.

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8 Responses to Obey the Sharrow!

  1. UPDATE!

    This morning, just a few minutes after this post appeared on the ESL Podcast blog, one of the people I follow on Twitter gave a link (connection) to an article about plans to make London “bicycle friendly.” You can fined it here – http://bit.ly/cMyc64. At the end of the article is a link to another article that talks about plans to do the same in Denver, Colorado in the U.S – http://bit.ly/bSOUYK. And at the end of that article … (it’s true: there’s more!).

    Happy reading, bicycle lovers!


    P.S. Happy anniversary, Jeff and Lucy! We’re proud of you!

  2. emiliano says:

    One of the nice things I have seen when I have been in North Europe was to see so many bicycle lines in countries like Germany or Austria, also I know there are other countries of Europe like Nederland or Denmark and quite so many that have these lines exclusively to bicycles.
    Yes, I love bicycles and I had my first one when I was only four years old.
    My three daughters have one when they were litle girls too and they enjoyed their bicycles for a long time, but only when we were at the country near the mountains of Madrid.
    My parents have a house in this place and our bicycles were inside this house, frequently we were in their house and we had the opportunity of cycling when we were there.
    Living in a big city, or not so big here in Spain, it´s dangerous to cycling and we need to have these bicycle lines to go some places, and of course on the roads it´s necessary too.
    It has to be nice having the posibility of going to work cycling, less stress, less trafic, less polution, less money, less time, less parking spaces, more healthy, more pleasure with the exercise, and more money to spend in books, movies, or whichever thing we like.

    Yes, we need docking stations, bicycles lines, and much more security roads to the persons that want to cycling.

    Thank you Warren, just and incredible good article, also a nice hearted remembrance than reminds me great records of my own life.
    The picture is genial, congratulations for you bicycle…….did you had two little wheels joined to the rear big wheel when you started to cycle?.
    I had, and my little daughters had too at the begining of their cycling training.


  3. Kuong Do says:

    When I went to my university I always got to it by bicycle. Now, I have a motorbike but I sometimes go by bicycle, too.

  4. Kuong Do says:

    Congratulation, Dr. Jeff and Dr. Lucy for your Fifth Anniversary of ESL Podcasts.

  5. Karl, Austria says:

    In big cities you usually can travel much faster by bike than with any other vehicle. Therefore you’ll find more and more bike couriers, who are the quickiest way to deliver your regular post within a big city.

  6. Suzanne Brassard says:

    Warren, your article about bicycles was very interesting.
    I am from Montreal and I want you to know that we have in Montreal, Canada, our Bixi system. We have 300 docking stations and we have 3000 bikes named Bixi (bi…ke and ta…xi)

  7. Fernanda says:

    First off all, congratulations for both of you, Dr Lucy and Jeff for the anniversary! Like warren said we’re very proud of you, and its a amuzing time read all posts in the blog and listenning Jeff’s beatiful voice!

    Well, i love cycling and i got my first one when i was 6-7 and it had a two little wheels joined to the back one, like emiliano said! its increadible that kids in different countries, like us he in spain and me in Brazil, had used the same thing!
    This post talked about a recent gain and i can tell you all that in Brazil, capital of São Paulo, this is very new! Last year,2009, in the south part of the city, this kind of sharows was painted, but its only for cycling and works only on sundays. But about three ou four, im not sure, subway’s station get a docking station, but you need to pay for a person who stays there only for watching the place. And this year a smooth roadwas created beside the biggest river and its a wonderful gain for all. But here commuting is not common.

  8. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, thank you for accessing of The Economist and Los Angeles Times. We have not used the sharrow nor docking station yet.

    Best wishes,


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