Friday, 16 April 2010

Reclaiming the night...with a bike?

The danger of walking alone at night is something that most women are forced to consider now and again, if not on a weekly basis. Unfortunately these concerns are not simply generated by media hype of a ‘broken Britain’ populated by muggers hiding behind every street corner waiting to jump the vulnerable or unwary. That it is not safe for a woman to walk alone after a certain time is a fact that we all have to incorporate into our lives. This isn’t just an issue of getting home from nights out, if you’re working late, or just needing to pop out to the shop or meet a friend, personal safety is something that all too often needs to be considered.

So, what are we to do? Well there’s always the public transport, but aside from the fact that buses and trains do eventually stop running, not everybody feels safe sat alone late at night. Personally I do generally feel okay on Birmingham’s public transport, but I can see why you might not. Waiting alone at stations or stops, worrying friendly strangers who insist on sitting next to you and asking for your number, and the eventual half dash from your stop to the front door.

Then there are taxis, but to be frank, who can afford to fork out every time they need to travel late at night? Of course sharing taxis back can work out great price wise but there’s not always someone going in your direction. Although it’s not an issue I’ve particularly heard discussed in Birmingham, there have been well publicized cases of attacks on women by taxis drivers. Companies with exclusively female drivers are a great idea, but this is a choice I’ve never seen advertised or have been offered. 

This entry seems to be going down a pretty depressing path (sorry!), but hope can be a two wheeled format! Since I first became comfortable with cycling on roads I’ve felt safe biking home at pretty much any time of night. Firstly, a person on foot is going to have a pretty hard time catching you. Second, when on the road you become part of the traffic. Although many drivers may not see cyclists as proper road users, I imagine most pedestrians do. When you’re on your bike you’re not a lone women who can be stopped and harassed, you’re only moderately more approachable than a motorized vehicle. Also very important, cycling is free!

Personally, I’ve found cycling at night very liberating; being able to travel without being reliant on other people or the depth of your wallet can feel great. But this isn’t to say that cycling is the solution to all transport related problems. For example, I don’t think drunk cycling can be reasonably advocated, no matter how tempting it can be. In addition, I know some women who, justifiably, will not cycle through certain areas after dark, parks being the prime example. Of course there are also still incompetent car drivers to look out for. Finally, cycling at night is great, but we should never give up the fight to be able to travel in safety in any manner we want, and at any time we want. Campaigns like Reclaim the Night are as important now as they ever were.

Next entry: how to use your bike as an offensive weapon against potential attackers!

1 comment:

  1. Dead right, Lauren. There is little better than a pre-dawn takeover of the roads- cycled home close to 5 on Sunday morning, just as there was a hint of light on the horizon, and loads of birds were singing. It was beautiful, and I didn't feel nervous like I would have done on foot. Maybe a reclaim the night ride could be on the femme pedale books at some point?