Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Cyclist's Story of Street Harassment

This happened last summer and haunts me still. At my last job, I rode my bike 10 miles to work on the Westside from the Northside, a 20-mile round trip, Monday through Friday. I loved the ride even though I went through some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city where the roads are dreadful and harassment abounds. I got harassed at least twice a day on my bike, a couple times threatened with violence but mostly sexually harassed by men. The absolute worst incident happened on a Monday morning around 7am on Augusta, just west of Pulaski.

While riding west on Augusta, a silver 4-door car pulled out of an alleyway I'd just passed. The car slowed down next to me and the driver (who was alone in the car) leaned over, peered out of his passenger side window and said, "You wouldn't, by any change, want to give me a handjob?" like it was the most innocuous thing he could've said at 7am to a stranger, like he was asking for directions to church. I was appalled and violently angry. Whenever I am harassed, I start to shake and worry I might get violent. So I rode faster, trying to lose him, putting my angry energy into getting the hell away from him.

A couple blocks later, as I was finally getting steadier and feeling less frazzled, he was back. His car crept up behind me and he asked again, the same tone and everything, as though maybe I had just not heard him. I started trembling with anger again and yelled the first thing I could think of, "Not to you!" and rode away as fast as I could. The rest of my ride to work I was seething with anger, amazed I hadn't stopped and used my bike to break his windshield (which had crossed my mind, but I didn't want to damage my bike).

I still think about this guy--20's-30's, dark hair, light brown skin (maybe Middle Eastern or Latino)--who I really wish I had physically harmed. I am not a violent person and I do not like being overtaken with rage. City cyclists already feel vulnerable to cars and that this miserable asshole targeted me still makes me sick to my stomach. Any harassment I received for the following week made me want to punch people's teeth in. I wish I had gotten his license plate number or snapped a photo of him, but everything happened too fast and when you're placed in that situation, the 'fight or flight' instinct kicks in. I flew. But I wish I had fought.

This website empowers me. Public shaming of these assholes empowers me. Thank you, Hollaback. Let's band together and get this problem the attention it deserves.

~Submitted by Mary