Biking and Sexual Harassment

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Does biking make you feel safer in navigating the city?

Are you somebody who likes using bikes to get around a little better in this stinkin’ sexist world that’s so heavy with gendered violence? Does biking around the city feel different than walking or using public transit? Does it make you feel more powerful? Less powerful?

Able to zip past otherwise obnoxious and/or dangerous situations? Or does it make you feel more vulnerable to cars? Does biking in Hamilton increase or decrease your safety?

Here are some thoughts on biking and sexual harassment from some of the super smart women of Hamilton!

  • When I’m biking home late at night, I never worry about the fact that it’s late at night!
  • Yes, I can identify with the physical safety of speed and mobility, but I also still feel super self consciousness because I have still been street harassed on a bike. My body on a bike seems to garner more unwelcome attention than when I’m walking sometimes.
  • I absolutely feel more safe biking home late at night than I do walking. It’s frustrating that I feel more secure around a 3000 lb. heap of metal than I do with some of the creeps who follow you down the street, but it’s true. Riding a bike lets me power past them before I even hear the catcalls.
  • When I ride my bike I feel like I am myself, just amplified from the outside perspective. I’m fast and strong and have a big personality, but riding a bike gives me a way to SHOW that in a second as I fly by.
  • It gives me a quick way out – My legs to propel me out of a bad place are a lot stronger than the parts of me that I might use to defend myself.
  • Cycling absolutely makes me feel safer when moving around the city! I feel untouchable because I’m not in the same physical space as potential harassers on the sidewalk and I can move away quickly from folks on other forms of transportation, and being on a bike means I can move quickly even through stopped traffic, turn down alleys, etc. I can leave places late at night when I want to without being dependent on others (rides with friends, spotty late night buses, taxis) and that makes me feel independent and secure!
  • I feel that on foot I am more vulnerable to street harassment than on a bicycle but I don’t feel safe anywhere from sexualized, targeted violence against women in this city. One time someone through a lit cigarette at me from their truck window as i was parking my SOBI on James North. I also notice how men stare at me when i ride over a bump on the road, just as when i run down the street to catch a bus. Always in the public eye, the male gaze. I feel freedom on a bike and the wind in my hair. I feel I can speed away and I feel like a more powerful machine. I don’t want to have to borrow power from the mechanics of my bicycle, i want to be powerful in my skin and bones. I want to be safe, respected and confident to share the sidewalk, road, park path, anywhere with anyone else. I want to feel safe that someone won’t use their perceived powerlessness to take my power in order to gain a little for themselves. You cannot take my power away.
  • I can remember when I first started biking around the city. It definitely made getting around on dark fall or winter nights feel way less icky. I went out to more things once I started biking because having biking as a transportation option helped my bypass a lot of anxiety about being harassed on the street or having to walk past an abuser.

Compiled by Dev.

Join SoBi for bike decorating and a group ride to Take Back the Night on Thursday, October 13th! More information on SACHA’s website.

hamilton-bike-share-free-ride

 

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