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I would say the more bikers and women bikers out on the streets the healthier the environment for preventing harassment. All the more reason for creating facilities that welcome women - like cycle tracks and such that legitimize cycling and make it socially less acceptable to harass bikers (who from the views of drivers are inferior and therefore easier to harass.)

Well said. I think men who are not doing the harassing and are opposed to women being harassed should also speak up and challenge it when they see it happen. That would both show that we're against it, and show solidarity with the women being harassed.

One day the Congress will repeal all of DC's silly gun laws and Im going to bike with a long barrel .357 on my back and I doubt Ill be harrassed, clipped, or otherwise intimidated on the bike again

this is my #1 reason for not bike commuting in winter. it's not the cold, it's the dark. i have no interest in being out on the trails after dark, from a safety standpoint (and my commute home would start at twilight in DC, and end in pitch black on the mount vernon trail--no thanks). i guess some sort of "car pool" type arrangement--planning to ride with a group at a set period of time could help, or maybe even offering to stay near anyone you see alone on the trail at night (but this could also be seen as patronizing by some).

generally, about street harassment (cat calls and the like), i would say that the instances of that goes up when i'm on my bike. i think it's because i have a fairly attractive dutch style bike that stands out, and when i'm just riding around town (not commuting) i'm usually in a dress or skirt, which also stands out. plus, i'm moving so quickly, the cat caller doesn't have to worry too much about getting glowered at or shot down...they can just shout their sexually explicit stuff, or whatever they're going to do and i'm gone.

i do like the idea of men helping to stop this kind of harassment, but i'm not really sure how. most of the gropers/cat callers don't do that kind of thing when there are other men around. i suppose just being aware that this kind of thing does happen and is actually fairly common is a step in the right direction. one of my guy friends actually didn't believe that women get groped on the metro or on elevators on a fairly regular basis, and thought that cat calling was something from the past or the movies, because he himself didn't do it and never saw it happen. we told him that it only happens when there are no other men around so that's why he never saw it....still not sure if he totally get is, but it did help some.

I'm curious, where have people experience cat calls or harassment while on a ride?

stan, it really could be just about anywhere--just like it happens just about anywhere while walking.

i think it happens MORE to women while on bikes because they stand out more, and because the harasser runs little risk of getting snapped at or "shot down" in front of his friends because the cyclist is moving quickly and probably won't stop.

that being said, the "usual" places that this kind of thing happens is anywhere where there's mostly men working mostly outdoor/physical jobs--mechanic shops, construction sites, car washes etc--in dc, in the suburbs, doesn't matter.

me personally, while on my bike, get whistled at whenever i ride by this particular mechanic shop in old town alexandria and once was riding around old town (a not-so-nice couple of blocks part of old town) and went by a small group of young men who were walking on the sidewalk, and got a clever suggestion on what else i might like to ride.

i haven't been bothered in dc while on my bike because i'm mainly only riding up and down the mall (14th street bridge to capitol hill) at 8am and 6pm--not a prime time or location for harassment.

There is an upside to this. When there are attractive women riding bikes, surely - men won't be far behind. More women on bikes means more men on bikes.

And in any case - the men who act this way do it all the time, not just when women are on bikes. And the women who are being cat-called, quite certainly get cat-calls all the time.

The important thing is that getting pretty women out biking will most likely get everyone else out biking.

@Catherine, I have to say that I'm a lot like your friend. I too thought this was something from the past that doesn't really happen very much anymore. I'm a bit surprised and disappointed to find out that isn't true.

Thanks for this article. It's nice to have this issue mentioned. It's part of my daily experience.

I've been a bike commuter in DC since I moved here in 2004. I'm a small woman (5'2", 110). I ride in skirts frequently.

I've found it doesn't matter if you wear a skirt or not--the harassment doesn't change. It's incessant--from people walking down the streets to people yelling out of car windows.

My worst experience recently was a DC firetruck that pulled up behind me at a stoplight and turned on the siren. I quickly moved my bike to the sidewalk to get out of the way; a firefighter leaned out the window to inform me that they'd turned the siren on to get me to look around and to bring attention to my ass, which apparently is siren-worthy.

Few things ruffle me any more, but this infuriated me. I tried to get a DC cop to arrest the firefighters for misuse of city property (siren for catcalls), but the cops weren't interested.

My conclusion on this: I choose everyday I ride a bike to risk 1) getting injured/killed by an aggressive or negligent driver and 2) getting constantly sexually harassed. Despite the danger and the harassment, I still ride my bike. I don't see why I should give up my freedom because there are a large percentage of assholes. However, I understand that other women make different decisions.

I've also found it helps to focus on the men that yell pleasant things. Not all comments are demeaning; if you focus on the nice comments it helps because 1) you hate men less and 2)you have a nicer day.

I've also found a couple of stock phrases useful. "Is that how your mother taught you to speak to women?" is a great one--often even bringing an apology. "Would you like me to say that to your mother/wife/girlfriend/daughter?" also has good effects.

However, I dare anyone to touch me. I got a man arrested at the whole foods last week for threatening to hit me with his cane. And I have left an impressive trail of bloody noses in my wake of men who have actually touched me when I've been on my bike. I may look small and cute, but I know how to break a nose and kick a man where it hurts.

I would recommend female cyclists carry pepper spray, though. It brings security, particularly if comments continue for several blocks.

Here's a trick I picked up from my dad that can be used on motorists harassing cyclists of either gender: Wait till they get stuck at a stoplight, then pull up next to them and squirt your water bottle through the window they opened to holler at you.

Not the most mature means of handling the situation, but it's very satisfying. Also, I would recommend pulling onto a side street immediately thereafter.

Oh yeah, this is most definitely not a thing of the past. A couple weeks ago I was riding and followed up 14th street about 10 blocks by some assholes in a car yelling "suck my dick" at me the ENTIRE way. Kept thinking I'd lost them then they would catch up at the next light. But what can you do? (I was about mad enough to reach for the old U-lock at that point...) The "high point" was literally having my ass grabbed once while riding in Chicago. You're vulnerable on a bike, more so than walking. I don't know what the answer is, although my fantasies of handlebar mounted annihilator/castration rays can get quite detailed. And wouldn't it be WONDERFUL if the cops actually took this kind of harassment seriously?

I fantasize about handlebar-mounted castration rays too. in detail.

Erica and Myrtle--

Have you ever figured out what they actually WANT from you (besides the obvious, which even they know is NOT going to happen)? I constantly wonder what in god's name they do this kind of thing for. Is it to intimidate us so we stop cycling/walking in that area? Is it to show off for buddies (if so, how does this make them look good)? Is it just to pass time/because it's funny (if so, what's funny about it)? Or is a "hey let's see if she DOES want to [fill in the blank]"?

And Erica--that experience is just about the best argument for carrying pepper spray I can think of (that doesn't involve staving off physical threats). Fill the car with that stuff.

I think these kinds of crimes have little to do with sex and a lot to do with power. Maybe guys who do this feel like they don't have as much control over women as they'd like, so this kind of behavior is their way of taking control. Maybe a woman on a bike is extra emasculating - independent and strong - to some guys and so they get extra "attention."

Your stories are eye-opening. I’m so sorry that you have to endure this crap. Just please be careful where you point the annihilator/castration rays.

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