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SPECIAL SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR WOMEN BICYCLISTS
A female "Bike Commuting Tips" visitor wrote:
Hi Paul. I just read your online article about cycling for commuters [ ... ] I have tried to become informed about bicycle traffic safety and there are more than enough web pages on this subject. My main concern, however, is the traveling safety I may face as a young woman traveling alone on my bicycle. [ ... ] I have tried to map out safe streets to ride through but I am still concerned about my safety. I just wanted to know if you have any information or web links about violence against women while on bicycles. Specifically rape or abduction. Thank you
Thanks for visiting my bike commuting tips page and for your post. This is a very difficult topic, so I hope you won't mind that I consulted with my wife, Marianne. She has been a regular bike commuter for several years, and now travels through and works in a San Francisco neighborhood that isn't always the safest area for women.
The first thing to say is that an automobile is no protection from violent crime, as "car jacking" incidents and other attacks demonstrate. Parking lots and garages are notoriously dangerous places. And driving is inherently hazardous, with automobile accidents killing nearly 42,000 people and hospitalizing another 1 million every year. Sadly, women are never entirely safe from verbal abuse, rape, abduction, or other assault. This unfortunate reality means that you'll always need to take precautions, however you travel.
That said, there is a difference between appropriate caution and paranoia. You shouldn't let fear prevent you from enjoying activities like bicycling that can greatly enhance your life. And in many ways, bicycling is safer than driving. For example, in dangerous situations, you can easily redirect your bike 180 degrees and go the opposite direction, even on the sidewalk if necessary. Try that with a car!
Among the precautions that Marianne suggests are these:
1) Heed your gut feelings. If a situation causes anxiety, turn around and leave. Get away to a place where you feel more secure. Trust your instincts.
Again, don't let fear diminish your enjoyment of cycling (or life.) The world is not as dangerous as our overly sensationalistic media would like us to think. Precaution, not paranoia.
Another resource you might find helpful, for safety and other cycling considerations, is Dave Glowacz' great book Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips: Low Tech & No-Tech Ways to Find, Ride, & Keep a Bicycle.
Other Resources Related to Safety for Women:
DVD: Be Your Own Bodyguard for Women - Self Defense
Send other suggestions or experiences to me.
Comments? Suggestions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org || Updated 02.17.11