(Don’t) Sharrow the Road

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The quality is horrendous, for that I apologize. This picture lived a tough life. It’s a photo of a photo in a photocopied copy of a city planning pamphlet. I planned on writing this post weeks ago, but I never went out to take the necessary picture. I could have found a picture on the internet, but I’m trying to stop stealing content. I’ve recently learned how upset this makes people.

Stealing content: Maybe you’ve heard about this, possibly read it on a blog: a website called Tygpress.com lifted and republished content from countless WordPress blogs. I don’t know many more details, I read about it briefly on a blog I follow. The author and several commenters were upset that their blog posts were stolen. I made no friends by weighing in that I doubt it would bother me if I found my stuff on their site, it’s already posted on the internet for all to see.

Here’s my thought process—I give away my blog posts, I give away my books, I have a separate blog that is 100% anonymous. I’m not looking for attribution or income, I just want to be read. “But they’re making money on your content” you say. Well good for them, I guess, I already determined that I can’t. Possibly I’m so lackadaisical about this because I, too, steal content—pictures, not words, to pretty up my blog posts—or should I say stole content, because I’m trying not to do that anymore. You might argue that I’ve just done this with the photo I stole from the city planning document. What can I say, it’s in my blood.

Back to my post: A month ago, I was riding my bike to work. Before you applaud me as an environmentalist or a badass, you should know that I was only doing it because my daughter Sophie wanted to use my car, plus it’s only a mile. Also, I haven’t done it since because the next day I pulled a calf muscle, and then I pulled a chest muscle, and then I threw out my back. It’s been a bad month.

On my ride, I passed a sharrow. This is that bicycle/arrow painted on the street in my stolen picture. This symbol is intended to let the car drivers know that bicycles belong here. They should share the road. That seems kind of nice, right? It has to improve safety, or at least decrease aggressive driving by annoyed commuters stuck behind a slow-moving bicycle for three blocks. It’s a helpful gesture.

No, if I had my way, I’d cover it with tar. Thirteen years ago, as a known cyclist in the Gettysburg community, I was invited to help map the town for bike routes. Twenty other cyclists and I took highlighters and drew on a huge Gettysburg map the roads where we most frequently rode our bikes. They were going to make Gettysburg a bike friendly town, and this mapping exercise was step one.

Last fall, they completed a bicycle bridge. It’s very pretty. It’s made of green steel and reddish board planks that are actually made from recycled plastic. You can tell just by looking at it that it cost a fortune to build. Impressive, right? Not really, it crosses a small stream. It’s in a middle of a block, so really you could go twenty yards in either direction and cross the same stream on a road, but this looks really nice, and it screams bike-friendly town. The only other trail building they’ve performed in those thirteen years is to paint a sharrow, one sharrow on a road. As it turns out, it’s one of the roads I mapped, so I guess I feel like I was heard. But really, one sharrow?

Here comes the rant: Whenever I ride my bike over that sharrow (which, due to my various injuries, isn’t often) my blood pressure spikes. Drivers are told to share the road. Where? Right here. Nowhere else in the whole town. The message I get from that sharrow is “No, we don’t belong. We’re only supposed to ride where someone paints a bicycle.” In many countries, bicycles are as prevalent as autos. They can share all the roads because bicycles are treated as vehicles, not toys. As Gettysburg rolls out more of these sharrows, a handful of prominent roads will be deemed bike friendly, everywhere else, I’ll be I the way.

That picture above is the road right outside my office. It’s an artist’s rendition of what Gettysburg will look like in the future. You might notice there are no bikes in the picture, and there aren’t any cars either. And what they conveniently left out is that in ten more feet, street parking begins and the bike lane will completely disappear. I’m okay with that, I don’t mind riding in traffic. I just hope that the drivers don’t mind riding with bikes when we don’t have a lane of our own.

11 thoughts on “(Don’t) Sharrow the Road

  1. I’ve been traveling and my phone isn’t letting me ‘Like’ anything on WordPress—but I did read your post on Likes, so know that I Like your posts!
    Okay—now for my comment on stealing content… One of my posts syndicated on The Good Men Project was recently appropriated to a sex toys site. Which sort of sucks as I definitely do not write about sex toys. They publisher of GMP wrote to them to take it down, but what can I really do? I didn’t authorize it, but it looks like I did. They attributed the story to me—but because GMP writes “republished with permission” they “Pressed” the full content onto their site, including that…which of course, is did not authorize. And so, I say, yes content stealing is wrong and bad. But sometimes people like it when their words are deemed pressable… just not on sex toy sites.
    Also, you can get free images from Unsplash and Pixabay—don’t even need to attribute (though I do anyway.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh right. I get published on that sex toy site frequently. Because it’s attributed to me, I never really thought of it as stealing so much as “sharing” as if I reblogged one of your posts. The first time they published me on Romantic Toys, I was flattered, then I just stopped thinking about it. Possibly I need to spend some more time giving it real thought to see if it matters to me.

      When I want to post a “real” picture, meaning something artistic, I go to unsplash. If I just want a picture of an AR-15 for a gun essay, I’ll grab it off of google. It’s probably a lame distinction–a photo is a photo–but again, something for me to think about. I was wondering where you went. I’ve been having all sorts of problems with what wordpress is allowing me to do on my phone. It’s such a huge platform, and many businesses use it as their website, you’d thing they would have the mobile version worked out.

      Like

  2. Yeah, I saw a lot of us were on the Tygpress site. I didn’t do anything. I guess there was a form you could fill out to complain but then I thought I was giving them information about me they would use in a bad way. I don’t know. I DID get in trouble once for using a picture I found on Google. It was IEP related and the creator emailed me and told me I had to take it down as it was copyrighted. I did, right away, as I heard some people getting in some bad juju with copyrighted photos. So I do the same – my own photo or from pixabay.
    I imagine it is tough for bikers to maneuver through a downtown area. I know how hard it is for the ones that are around here going through all the backroads. Seems there is very little patience on the part of the driver.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. The chances of a photo owner stumbling onto to their own photo on your site seems so remote. Usually it isn’t until I write about something that I actually start thinking about it. I think I’ll probably do better in the future. Some photos though, an AR-15 for instance, where would I get that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know. I had the WORST time trying to find a photo for my post I had about security at the Liberty Bell. I wanted a photo of coming through a security line and there were no free ones anywhere. So I had to pick something else and went with one of Declan. It was a good IEP photo – she must have looked it up on Google and I think you can see where else the photo is being used. I *think.*

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is neither here nor there, but to get it out of the way first, I snorted (laughing) when I read: “the next day I pulled a calf muscle, and then I pulled a chest muscle, and then I threw out my back.” How many times has that kind of thing happened, snowballing bodily injuries, more often than not happening from COMPETLELY innocent activities. I threw out my back (aggravating an old injury) reaching for a tissue. Sigh.

    As for stealing content, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I used to be more “borrow” friendly (of images) when I first started. But, since I’m a photographer (hobbyist) and have had my images used without permission, nor even attribution, my new found insight changed my mind. I went from: “do unto others as you’d have them do to you” to “do unto others as they’d have you do unto them.” Mostly. What am I, a saint?

    As an undergraduate, I used to ride my bike to school. This was significant because I lived 20+ miles from school. There were no sharrows back then (mid to late 90s). And weirdly enough, even though I live in Houston, TX, drivers were respectful. That is, I rode in the street (hugging the curb) and only had one run in with an arsehole. It wasn’t until the city became “bike friendly” with lots of actual lines with sharrows that motorist became aggressive. Maybe I was lucky before and never encountered the jerks. Maybe the entitlement of bikers is grating on the drivers (in some areas bikers have taken to ignoring all traffic rules and aggressively confronting motorists that have the right of way). Sigh. It’s never a black and white issue, is it. At least in the case here, when they started rolling out the bike lanes they actually made bike lanes. That is, it took a while to put them all in place, but they did more than just one perfunctory sharrow. That would be frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, growing old(er) sucks. It’s looking like I may be well enough to go for a run this weekend…IF I don’t wreck something else before that. This morning I was walking into work and two volunteers, well in their seventies, asked me to move a box for them. I said no. I’m not willing to risk hobbling around for another 2 weeks just to be nice to a volunteer.

      The subject of cyclist entitlement is tricky… because we *are* entitled to the roadway. And too many drivers won’t acknowledge that. And with the sharrows, those drivers can point and say “there that’s what you’re entitled to.” Those riders who cut off the line of cars at every traffic light and make everyone pass them again really screw things up for the rest of us. Those clueless and self-centered people get the attention. No one notices the riders who stay in line at a traffic light. Riding in Houston sounds like a HOT activity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 🤞🏼Fingers crossed 🤞🏼 that you get to go on your run, old man. Ha.

        I should have been more clear. By entitlement, I meant the self-centered people. By and large, most of the cyclists on the streets are following the rules, i.e. they are acting like other motorists. The jagoffs that ride into intersections when they have the red light and then stop and scream, kick, and otherwise fight with motorists (which I’ve seen several times) are the ones I meant. And no, I’m not talking about some planned big bike ride. These are generally 5 to 10 riders, just out on any given night.

        Even if I wanted to ride these days, in the Summer—fugetaboutit! It is WAY too hot. I don’t even take my lunchtime walks from mid June to mid September.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There are many bicyclists in the SF Bay Area and tons of car traffic congestion too. I’m always impressed with bicyclists here because it’s a dangerous area to ride in, too much traffic and drivers searching for rare parking spaces often cause accidents. I wish there were more designated bike lanes and also wish bicyclists didn’t ride on the pedestrian sidewalks (because of fear of getting hit by traffic). I like the idea of pedestrian bridges above ground level. I hope your muscles recover soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judy. I think what you just described is one of the problems with cycling. We want to be treated as equals to cars, but when things get crowded, it’s hard to skip the shortcuts. When I was an urban commuter (DC) my mantra was do no harm. I didn’t inconvience drivers, but I didn’t et the rules inconvience me. Now, in small town life, there are no excuses. I follow the rules (except there’s a short grassy hill I can ride down that puts me on a really nice road. It makes my commute shorter, safer and way more enjoyable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome Jeff. I admire bicyclists for not driving, I think they should have better treatment than drivers, because they’re one less car on the road contributing to pollution. I don’t know how to ride 😬! but I walk and take public transit, when I’m running late, I take Uber/Lyft carpool.

        Liked by 1 person

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