January 20, 2018
Monday, June 23, 2014

Training wheels

By Pablo Toledo
For the Herald

Kid-sized bike share? Giving it a spin (1) in Paris

Not every 6-year-old can tackle (2) the distractions of bike riding along the Seine, which on weekends and sunny days in Paris can include thousands of other cyclists, roller bladers and oblivious tourists with cameras.

It's enough to give a parent palpitations.

But the city of Paris, in a bid to train the next generation of cyclists, has added a range of kids' bikes and gliders to its bike-sharing programme, devices that could be theoretically used even by children as young as two.

And to ease parents’ minds, they even offer helmets.

My 6-year-old was among the first to take out the new P’tit Velib’ on Wednesday, riding happily along the banks of the Seine and obediently steering clear of (3) the drop-off into the water. She pronounced (4) the borrowed wheels exactly the same as the ones I use for my daily commute, but sized just for her.

She carefully checked the colour and style against the bikes used by “les grands” — the grown-ups — and was satisfied that her ride had not been dumbed down (5) or painted in pastels or primary colours.

For my daughter, the joy was in finally being able to ride with the grown-ups in parts of Paris previously unreachable on her own bike. She worried about very young riders — the programme is pitched (6) to children ages 2 to 8 — saying the distractions and the unfamiliar bikes could be too much for them. But she loved the quality of her shared bike and its responsive brakes.

The programme developed after city officials discovered that about half of Parisian children learn to cycle outside the city, which has limited space for bike lanes, few green spaces large enough to accommodate (7) amateur riders, and no easy way to get a child's bike from one point to another.

The very youngest get glider bikes, which give children the sense of balance before they attempt pedals. There are three successively larger sizes with pedals for older children. The programme starts with 300 bikes, which must be returned to the location where they were rented.

The hope is eventually to make it resemble adult bike shares, where riders can pick up a bike in one place and drop it in another, said Joel Sick, whose association AICV runs the stand on the Seine.

“The idea now is to create a space for the youngest riders,” Sick said.

For at least one, they sure did.

Adapted from a story by Lori Hinnant, Associated Press.

A spin

To spin means to make something turn (like wheels). When you take a car for a spin, you test-drive it (you take it out of the dealership and make the wheels spin) – by extension, to give something a spin means to try it out.

To tackle

To tackle something means to make an effort to deal with something difficult or problematic.

To steer clear of

To steer a ship (and other vehicles too) means to make it turn. When you steer clear of something, you make sure that you avoid it.

To pronounce

Remember our references to false friends? Well, pronounce is a tricky one: in some contexts it means the same as our Spanish “pronunciar,” but in others it means to announce an 0opinion publicly, usually in some official capacity (a lighter version of “declare”).

To dumb down

Dumb means stupid or uneducated. To dumb something down means to make something less complex by lowering its information value and overall quality so that it is appropriate for a “less sophisticated” audience. It has negative connotations, implying that the new version is bad and that you have a low opinion of the new audience it has been adapted for.

To pitch

No, nothing to do with a footbal pitch! To pitch something in marketing and advertising means to try to sell it to someone in particular. This is a metaphorical extension of its primary meaning “to throw in a specific direction”: you take a product or idea and throw it in the direction of a person or specific group of people.

To accommodate

Another false friend for our list: here, to accommodate something means to provide enough space for it.

Bike talk

Now that bicycles are becoming more and more frequent in our urban landscape is a good moment to go over some essential biking vocabulary.

First of all, you ride a bicycle (like a horse or a motorcycle), you don't drive it (like a car). You sit on the saddle, put your hands on the handlebars and push your feet on the pedals. To stop it, you squeeze the brake lever. Some bikes have different gears that you can shift to move at different speeds.

If you want to be safe, ride on the bike lanes. A good set of fenders will keep the mud out of your clothes, and a chainguard can help protect your trousers from chain grease. But nothing will protect you from a flat tire, so make sure you have a patch kit and a pump with you to repair it on the road!


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