Jessica Reed asks in a blog post on UK’s Guardian website: “What is it about a woman on a bike that attracts such unwelcome attention? From catcalls to lurid comments, should you shout back, or just ignore them? Any tips for those who will not give up their skirts?” You can read her entry in full to learn about the extent of harassment she’s experienced while on her bicycle.
I haven’t been on a bicycle in over a decade (wow!) and I don’t recall being the target of any gender-based harassed as an adolescent in my neighborhood when I did ride one. In response to the Guardian blog post, Holla Back DC! notes that they haven’t received submissions from anyone about being harassed while on their bicycle in DC though some contributors have said that men on bikes have harassed them.
From my research, I’ve read stories from women who are often harassed on their bicycle and stories from other women who were relieved to find they were not harassed while on their bicycle. Here’s an example of one story illustrating the former from my anonymous, informal online survey from last fall:
“Once I was riding my bike down the street and this guy over on the sidewalk who thought he was clever shouted at me, “Hey, don’t you know pedaling (peddling) pussy is illegal?” I didn’t feel unsafe just because he said that, but I did feel sort of unwelcome, and even though I was angry I didn’t feel safe in confronting him.” – a young woman from Louisville, KY
Off the top of my head, two incidents come to mind when I think about this topic. First: one of my cousins lives in Arlington, VA, a close suburb of DC, and she told me that a man yelled “whore” at her one time when she was riding her bicycle home from work! Second: when I interviewed the founder of HollaBack Chicago over two years ago, she said a harassment incident she experienced while she was bicycling inspired her to start the blog.
Have you been harassed while on a bicycle or do you feel more immune to it than when you are on foot?