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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Safety considerations for female cyclists

Image of Victorian bicycling womenOn my bike commuting tips site, I have a special page on safety considerations for women. I had received an email from a woman, concerned about assault while riding her bike. I consulted with several female cyclists I know, including my wife of course, and posted my response.

I've since received suggestions from other cyclists, including from one man who even suggested that female bicyclists get firearms training and carry a gun. I can't think of a worse thing to suggest; imagine a cyclist fumbling to get her handgun out of her messenger bag or pannier at the first hint of danger. I'd bet on the assailant getting to the gun before she would. We need fewer guns on the streets, not more.

As I suggest on my webpage, my approach to possible violent confrontation, in order of priority, is: 1) Avoidance; 2) Flight; 3) Fight (while screaming as loudly as possible.)

I also advise that bicycling is an activity far safer than driving--among other things, bicycling allows one to avoid the rampant crime at WalMart parking lots.

There's a difference between paranoia and appropriate caution. No woman should let fear prevent her from enjoying fun and life-enhancing activities such as bicycling. As famed feminist Susan B. Anthony remarked: "The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world."

The best assurance of safety on a bicycle is confidence: in your machine, in your skills, and in yourself.

Resources Related to Safety for Women:
DVD: Be Your Own Bodyguard for Women - Self Defense
Book: Fearless: The Complete Personal Safety Guide for Women
Pepper Spray: SecurityRun - Runner Self-Defense Spray
Air Horn: Delta Airzound Bike Horn
Whistle: ACME Thunderer Whistle

Visit: Female? Here's How to Bike More, Opposing Views
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips


Anonymous said...

Why would a woman fumble?

That said, I wouldn't advise toting a gun. Violence usually just escalates violence. Wits, awareness, strong legs. And a sense of how to look after and watch out for ourselves that men can't even imaging needing, let alone incorporating into the way they live day to day, everyday.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a woman, but...a woman friend of mine, who lived in San Francisco's Mission District, pointed out that it is safer to be riding a bike in sketchy conditions (at night, in bad neighborhoods) than it is walking or taking a subway.

this is because you're gone before the bad guys see you or can plan how to attack; you can get away much faster than they; you have a large steel object at hand, etc.

few bad guys are on bike.

some bad guys are in cars, but bikes have much more maneuverability (hop curbs, u-turn, go on sidewalk or roll directly into a business).

this is something virtually no one recognizes--a bike is a personal safety accessory in both cities and lonely countryside.

I would also point out that while a car might be safer while in it, unless you have a garage, parking on the street or driveway exposes you to the pedestrian-mode safety risk. Many people can take their bike inside with them, meaning the only moment of lone exposure on the street is while unlocking the door and entering the building.

Plus biking by its nature keeps you pretty aware of your surroundings, not insulated from it--a common problem when driving.

Pianoman said...

"We need fewer guns on the streets, not more."

This is a naive statement. Until criminals agree to stop carrying guns, I will carry a gun.

Jen said...

I carry a product called, "Halt". It's a pepper spray used by the US Postal Service. It cost on $7.95 at my local bike shop. I keep it in my basket so I can easily reach it. It also has a clip so you can clip it on. I got it for loose and aggressive dogs but could work for other attacks.

Not so crazy about the gun idea. Nothing to do with woman or man the time you dig it out, you've already been attacked. Besides what are you going to do with the gun once you get where you are going? Tote it into the local library or bank? Seems extreme to me. I don't question your right to have a gun but the need to carry it on the bike seems a bit much.