Biking and Gender-Based Street Harassment, It sucks

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Things I heard on my bike ride the other day:
“Hey Baby- come over here,”
“Damn I wish I was that bicycle,”
“Get out of the road you stupid [gender expletive],”
“HONK HONK, HONK HONK HONK, HONK HONK HONK HONK.”

Most bicyclists get yelled at, honked at, threatened, and experience near-misses or direct harm. We all have bike horror stories. Everyday roadway interactions take on different forms for Women, Women of Color, queer and trans women.  Being on a bike invites nuance in gender-based street harassment and the aftermath.

Sure, I feel much more safe on a bike than I do walking, especially at night, because I have the power to escape and often I can avoid the interaction in the first place. But when I’m on my bike I’m more visible, more physical, more assertive, and strong. I take the lane and wait beside lines of cars and packs of peoples at stop lights. I’ve re-wired my brain take up public space and wield my physical power. I stand out.

Ask a room full of women who bike about street harassment and you’ll hear a complete range and repetition of experiences: catcalls, whistles, kissy noises, offensive pick-up lines, offensive comments on our body or gender expression or race or sexual identity, belittling comments, attempts to look up skirts, attempts to grab your butt, actually being grabbed in the butt, being followed, the threat of physical harm, being chased off the road, and in the rare but very real case – physical harm.

Not only does harassment change when I’m on a bike, so do outcomes. Likely the person is in a car, likely I’m on a road that was designed for cars, likely they outweigh me by a few tons, and if they threaten my life with their car likely I’m in a jurisdiction with arcane and outdated legal structures designed for people in cars. If I get hit, hurts or emotionally scarred, likely society and society’s legal structure will tell me it was my fault. I invited it. I misinterpreted. I shouldn’t be biking at night. I should’ve taken a defense class. Why didn’t I have pepper spray. I should’ve been out with a group of friends. My clothing was inappropriate. Oh – come on, boys will be boys.

Physical harm is an extreme example, though a very real example. What’s more likely to happen is that over time the people who experience harassment regularly start to subconsciously and consciously change their own behaviors. Likely we smile and interact in public less. We change our route, change our routine, change our wardrobe, turn hurt, angry, bitter, and resentful. I know I have.

Women & Bicycles is holding our FREE 3rd-annual Biking and Street Harassment Workshop with the Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) open to all women, trans women, and gender non-conforming folks. We hope you can join us. Mark your calendars.

Click here to learn what CASS is doing in our region to stop street harassment. Click here to read the first National Report on Street Harassment.

Commuter Bike Lane Glossary

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Have you eve been chatting with another cyclist and hear them talk about how someone was salmoning up the street? Or maybe a disgruntled bicycling commuter who hates when people are shoaling? Or how about your friend who advises you to take the contraflow lane on G Street to get over to 10th and H Street NE? Any of this sound a little like Sanskrit to you?

Well this blog post is for you! Below is a breakdown of some common terms you’ve probably heard out in the bicycling world.

Let’s start with the easiest.

photo credit bikearlington.com

photo credit bikearlington.com

Bike lane–  A bike lane is a striped area on the roadway usually with a bike painted on it showing that is a lane designated for bicycles.  It is illegal for drivers to park in bike lanes (though that doesn’t stop some). If a bike lane is next to parked cars, be careful to stay out of the door zone (see below).

 

 

 

 

photo credit beterbybicycle.com

photo credit beterbybicycle.com

Door zone– The door zone is the area where you are riding and a driver can swing open a door and possibly hurt you. To be safe ride as close to the outside white line as possible to avoid being hit by a vehicles door.

 

 

 

 

photo credit brentadams.com

photo credit brentadams.com

Sharrow– A sharrow is a shared lane marking which indicates where a bicycle may be in the road and also alerts drivers that bicyclists will be sharing the road with them.

 

 

 

 

photo credit peopleforbikes.org

Protected bike lane or cycletrack- A protected bike lane is sort of like a sidewalk for bikes. The lanes are separated from the car traffic via a barrier, usually either a curb or plastic posts. Thevprotected bike lane in the photo at left is a bi-directional lane— it’s designed so that bikes can go in both directions in the protected space. Protected bike lanes can also be one way.

 

 

 

 

photo credit envisionbaltimore.blogspot.com

Contraflow lane– A contraflow lane is a bike lane that goes against the flow of the surrounding traffic. Great examples are G and I Streets in Northeast DC, which offer a lower stress alternative to riding on the busy H Street NE.

 

 

 

 

photo credit urbansimplicity.net

photo credit urbansimplicity.net

Salmoning– Salmoning is riding your bike against the direction of traffic, either in a bike lane or a general travel lane. We don’t recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit www.citylab.com and Paul Krueger/Flickr

photo credit www.citylab.com and Paul Krueger/Flickr

Shoaling- Shoaling is riding up to the front of the line when other bikes are waiting at a light. It’s considered bad bike etiquette. If you do need to pass another bicyclist, wait until you are moving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now when someone tells you to take G Street NE, but says you won’t have to salmon because there’s a contraflow lane, you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Recap: Summer Bike Clinics at the Anacostia Public Library

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Teaching and wrenching at the Anacostia Library

Three years going strong!  Thank you so much to our partners at District Public Libraries, The Bike House, and Capitol Hill Bikes! During clinics, patrons get paired up with a volunteer mechanic and gain wisdom from the “each one teach one” method. Families, couples, little kids, and regulars all come out and learn how to work on their own bike and get it ready to go! WABA helps out as host and we provide bike tips, tricks and trivia, and get people engaged in the bike advocacy process.

This summer,volunteer mechanics fixed more than 150 bicycles! Pedal wrenches, third hand tools, and hex keys were moving around throughout the library plaza as bicycle mechanics worked the bike stands to fix everything from flat tires to worn out brake cables. It’s quite the site!

The first few clinics of the summer were a challenge because the demand for bike maintenance overwhelmed the few volunteer mechanics on hand. By July though, community members took skills they learned from previous clinics and started teaching others how to fix their own bikes.

By the end of the clinic, there were more mechanics than bicycles that needed a fixing! Hopefully, next year’s clinic will be an even bigger success!

Proper tire pressure can be a workout.

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Tuning up some brakes.

Special thanks to our friends at the Bike House and DCPL for making our third clinic series a success!

Recap: Trail Ranger Workday on the Suitland Parkway Trail

The Suitland Parkway Trail fits snugly between the fast-moving Parkway and the hillside, connecting Barry Farm and the Anacostia Metro to Douglas, Bueno Vista and Garfield Heights. One of DC’s shortest at 1.5 miles long, the trail slopes up gently compared to the surrounding hills, and could be a great feeder trail from the neighborhoods down to the Metro, South Capitol Bridge and beyond. 

Three years of regular light maintenance has improved the trail – the trail is consistently passable thanks to the trail rangers hours spent chopping back vegetation, and removing trash & glass. More people are choosing to use the trail —we regularly see folks now.

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But the trail made leaps and strides this week thanks to two intensive workdays of Trail Rangers and DDOT Urban Forestry. Bucket trucks, chain saws, weed whackers, a whole bevy of pole saws and loppers, and a bunch of thank yous from neighbors and trail users  – the passable trail corridor was moved 4 feet away from the trail bed and 15 feet high. As one trail user said, “that really needed to be done!” 

Be our Part-Time DC Bike Ambassador!

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The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is looking for an outgoing, energetic, and motivated person to help run the D.C. Bike Ambassador program. The program’s goal is to establish WABA’s presence city-wide, to foster a positive impression of bicycling and bicyclists and to educate residents and local organizations about bike laws, roadway safety, and potential benefits of bicycling to individuals, families, workplaces, and communities.

The part-time D.C. Bike Ambassador will promote WABA’s programs and the Bike Ambassadors’ core messaging, as well as coordinate Bike Ambassador outreach events, and help recruit local residents to become Ambassadors and attend WABA classes, programs, and events.

This position is part-time, 20 hours per week and compensation is $14 per hour.

Responsibilities

  • Coordinate and implement Bike Ambassador outreach, education, encouragement, and community organizing efforts for WABA city-wide.
  • Recruit and energize our team of volunteer D.C. Bike Ambassadors.
  • Lead one hour-long presentation on bicycling per month with a WABA community partner.
  • Distribute print resources to community members, such as D.C. bike maps, Quick Start Guides, D.C. Pocket Law Guides, Capital Bikeshare information, and WABA education and promotional materials.
  • Pull the WABA Bike Ambassador billboard trailer.
  • Complete weekly administrative and reporting requirements.
  • Report to, communicate and coordinate regularly and effectively with supervisor about goals, planning and logistics, reporting, challenges and issues.

Preferred Qualifications

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A strong commitment to WABA’s mission
  • Willingness and excitement to learn bicycling safety, traffic law, skills, and WABA’s bike encouragement philosophy.
  • Experience planning events and coordinating volunteers
  • Excellent presentation and public speaking skills.
  • A flexible schedule and willingness to work evenings, and/or weekends.
  • Experience with Microsoft Office, Facebook and Twitter.
  • The ability to pull a bicycle trailer weighing 10 lbs. for 1-3 hours.
  • The ability to lift at least 50 lbs.
  • Organized, good time management skills and ability to multi-task in a relaxed, fun environment.
  • Conversational fluency in Spanish strongly preferred.
  • League of American Cycling Instructor (LCI) certification a plus.

About the Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Making bicycling better through advocacy and education, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) promotes biking as a healthy, low-cost, and environmentally-friendly form of transportation and recreation. With 5,500 members region-wide, WABA serves the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, including the District of Columbia and communities in Maryland and Virginia.

To Apply
Send a cover letter and resume to jobs@waba.org by COB Friday, September 4th. No phone calls please. Position available immediately.
WABA is committed to providing equal employment opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, sex or age.

Pizza Party With The PAL Ambassadors, TONIGHT!

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Join us for our monthly Arlington PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful!) Ambassador Pizza Party tonight at BikeArlington’s Office. This is your monthly opportunity to meet other volunteer ambassadors and learn how the work of PAL is changing roadway culture in Arlington.

We’ll scheme, craft, and prepare for this month’s Block Party and enjoy some pizza and beverages!  It’s free and lots of fun.

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Thursday, August 20,
6:30pm to 8:30pm
1501 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1100
Arlington, VA 22209

 

Looking forward to seeing you there,
Annmarie!

WABA’s working with BikeArlington to recruit a community of volunteers to inspire more Predictable, Alert, and Lawful road culture in Arlington County. Bike billboards, pizza nights, and block parties — all on your commute home. Click here for more information on the PAL Ambassadors and join us at our next event!

Meet Annmarie Hansen, our new PAL Ambassador Coordinator!

 

The PAL Ambassadors had fun with the Burma Shave Signs today.

Annmarie Hansen (far right) and the PAL Ambassador team doing some streetcorner outreach. Photo by Pete Beers.

Hello! My name is Annmarie, and I am so excited to be WABA’s new PAL Ambassador Coordinator! (PAL stands for Predictable, Alert and Lawful).  I was drawn to this job because I have lived most of my life in Arlington and Washington. I’ve been riding here since I was a kid, and I’m passionate about safe cycling all over the area. I feel so fortunate that my job involves being nice to people, and helping them feel safe.

On Wednesdays growing up, my father, inventor of the “powerboost”, (which, he said, gave me no excuse to walk my single speed up hills) would pick me up from school and I’d perch myself on the seat of his road bike and he would wheel me home. I rode my first bike as much and as far as I could, and spray painted the purple thing black when I decided I wanted to be a tomboy.

When I became a grown-up, I didn’t ride my bike for fun anymore. I had places to go, and people to see. And riding a bike was the best way to do all those things. Riding a metro was okay. the bus was always too slow. And cars, well, it didn’t seems to be all it was cracked up to be. But riding a bike? Now that let me feel truly free. I felt in control of my body and my destiny when I was on a bike, and it was awesome.

When I was eighteen, I started riding a pedicab, which, at the time was a fun way to make money while riding a tricycle. It’s an exhausting job however, and after 5 years, I decided I wanted to work in bike advocacy. I did this by volunteering a bit with WABA and then all the time at Gearin Up Bicycles.

Pete Beers left me some big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to share my own enthusiasm with Arlington and the WABA community. I hope you’ll join me in making the streets of Arlington safe for everybody.

If you want to be a PAL Ambassador, sign up here: arlingtonpals.waba.org.