We’ve addressed most run-of-the-mill safety issues that surround cycling here on Carectomy, like keeping a wary eye out for reckless drivers, following traffic laws, using hand signals, wearing bright lights at night, and protecting your noggin’—in essence, the basics. But we have yet to cover one issue that, to me, appears more pressing—and which is tough to protect against: the inherent vulnerability of being a woman on her bicycle.
What does it mean to be a woman on her bike? Today, I was rudely reminded as I pedaled home from work. I was commuting alone, per usual, sans a peloton of protectors, and, no doubt, looking especially provocative in my ill-fitting helmet, huge backpack, and bulky fleece, tied seductively around my waist. (Hardly like those cute Danish girls who pedal in black pumps and mini-skirts.) A growling silver truck pulled up next to me at a red light, and the male driver and passenger proceeded to verbally harass me until the light turned green.
On my bike ride to work this morning, I was a target for honking, whistling, maniacal laughter, and perverse screaming (usually, unintelligible babble that’s cast to the wind, or something offensively sexual; they’re definitely not screaming about my water bottle cage) several times. On past rides, I’ve been chased, followed, and exposed to more than the, uh, weather. Sadly, these antics make for a typical day as a pedestrian. And my commute is a mere six miles.
Apart from the hazards of being a cyclist (zooming traffic, aching quads, full exposure to the elements), being a woman cyclist is arguably another danger, altogether. We not only have to dodge traffic, but lewd catcalls, creepy drivers, and gruesome come-ons. There’s nothing like a driver screaming, “suck my dick, bitch!” to ruin a beautiful morning bike ride.
So, ladies, gentlemen, cyclists and pedestrians, all: is it like this everywhere, in every city and town? Do you feel more vulnerable on your bike (or, for that matter, on foot)? Women, have you experienced this, too? Guys, does anyone mess with you while you’re on your bike, or can your ride relatively unfettered?
For more on the perils of being a woman on her bike, check out this post (and subsequent discussion) from Bike Portland.
Also, read Jessica Cassyle Carr’s account of being a woman—and a pedestrian—in my city.
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