Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Standing up to street harassment

101 Wankers is a new-ish blog in the mold of Holla Back, which deals with the invective hurled at one female cyclist in London. From misogynist filth to dangerous ignorance of the highway code, it details an unpleasant aspect of pedal powered life that we all contend with. It could make for pretty offputting reading for the more timid novice cyclist. Yet the blog also shows the very positive side of life in the saddle; it talks about cycling solidarity and when the author's bike was stolen, LGFSS message board users offered to sort her out a new one. It is sad that the simple act of getting on a bike whilst female seems to make one a target for abusive behavior. It is also brilliant that getting on a bike whilst any gender gives you the opportunity to join a huge gang of rather more community spirited people (of course, getting on a bike doesn't necessarily prevent you from being an arsehole either).

I was reminded of this cycling through Oxford a few days ago, when I received reverse street harassment from a small child. He stopped on the pavement and sang at the top of his voice: "LADY ON A LOVELY BICYCLE! I AM GOING TO CROSS THE ROAD SAFELY! LOVELY AND SAFE!" It was ridiculously saccharine and totally awesome. The kid reminded me that I've been lucky in having spent a lot of time in places like Oxford, York, and Cambridge, where 15 to 25% of journeys take place by bike (not to mention Holland. I have never had so much as a dirty look there. Gotta love the Dutch.). It's not that you don't get hassled, but the hassle is so much less frequent. This makes me feel that the more of an everyday presence bicyclists are, the less acceptable it is to bully them. Wherever you are, taking a journey on your bike doesn't just get you from A to B, it makes life a little bit more lovely and safe for all of us.

By the by, if you'd like to enjoy some cycling solidarity with some lovely, safe, community spirited people, our Reclaim the Bad Weather ride kicks off this Friday at 7pm, starting from Birmingham Central Library. All levels and types of cyclist welcome; all you need is a bike, lights, and possibly a waterproof.

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