Biking Harassment Part II

posted in: Bicycle | 2
Photo by thepostalservice via flickr
Photo by thepostalservice via flickr

In response to our inquiry yesterday on bicycle harassment in DC, Amanda Hess from the Washington City Paper writes about her own experiences on being harassed while biking around DC and explores some of the reasons why bikers get harassed.

My experience biking in the city has been similar to Reed’s, though the harassment I’ve experienced has been less sartorially-motivated. Usually, just biking while female is enough. And I think I’ve figured out what it is about a woman on a bike that attracts such unwelcome attention.

It’s an easy in. When it comes to picking up women, pick-up artists will tell you that the initial contact is often the hardest part. When your female target is perched atop a big, mobile metal contraption, would-be harassers have an easy way to spark conversation—or harassment. I’d say half the harassers who have targeted me on my bike resort to variations the same line: “Wish I were that seat.” Simple, offensive, effective.

Bikers are a natural outlet for road rage. Bikers—whether preventing the driver’s ability to drift thoughtlessly into the bike lane, or turn right without looking at who they might swipe in the process—are a constant annoyance to drivers. I’ve experienced my share of non-sexual harassment while biking as well—but it’s a short leap from road rage to sexist verbal bashing. See: General outrage at “women drivers” of all vehicles.

People just love fucking with people on bikes. Pedestrians, too, love fucking with bikers. I have a few theories on why this is true. First, it’s relatively effective and low-risk: bikers are close enough to the sidewalk to hear the harassment, but going too fast to bother to start shit. I also suspect that in some circles, biking is regarded as incredibly douchey, and harassing bikers is hilarious. This may explain why, several months ago, a woman leapt onto my boyfriend, laughing maniacally, as he attempted to ride past her. She didn’t seem to want money or sex—just fun.

Bike naturally puts your ass on display. Just sayin.’

As a result, the bike serves as a proxy for the short skirt. As Reed points out, certain wardrobe choices tend to encourage harassers. Even on foot, a woman’s interest in wearing a short skirt becomes a harasser’s invitation—hey, she’s not wearing pants, so she must want me to discuss her vagina! While elevated onto a bike seat, the harasser interprets your interest in using an efficient method of transportation that happens to elevate your butt as free vagina access. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter what the victim is doing—all that matters is that the harasser can find a thread of justification for the cat-call. Keep reading.

Have you ever experienced harassment while biking around DC? Send us your story by emailing us at or use our online form.

2 Responses

  1. -jenn

    A long time ago I was a bike messenger in DC…. One day while relaxing at DuPont Circle, a male friend of mine came riding up frantic, as he had just been groped and hollered at by some women in a car. I started laughing. The other guys were consoling said friend with comments to the tune of “That happened to me once!”

    It was noticed that I was laughing, and I was asked why I thought it was so funny that my friend was assaulted by a passenger in a car driving so close as to really menace running him over while trying to grab his butt. My response was “because it happens to me almost every single day.” In addition, I was usually groped multiple times a day in elevators.

    I guess its easy to assault women who, such as a bike messenger, you are unlikely to have contact with again. Plus, a guy in a suit just looked like a guy in a suit to me. They would have a much easier time remembering me than I would them, although I doubt they put that much thought to the matter.

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