Do you have an exit plan, Ladies?

This was recently passed on to me via a female cycling friend:

Today I went for a long bike ride by myself. This is one of my favorite things to do for so many reasons that I rarely, if ever, think about things that could potentially go wrong. So I was blissfully descending down a long canyon (hwy 74/Bear Creek Rd) and I noticed a guy in a pick-up truck pass me slowly, then pull over to the side of the road. He repeated this several times to the point I thought it was odd. A few minutes later, a guy on a motorcycle pulled up beside me as I was riding and told me he noticed it too. He told me to keep an eye out and said he was going to go up to the next corner and wait. He did this several times until the guy in the pick-up seemingly gave up, turned around, and left. I had no idea of the intent of the guy in the pick-up, but it still felt good to know someone was looking after me out there. There's nothing as refreshing as a stranger having the awareness to notice something potentially bad for someone else, then taking time out of their day to prevent it from happening. Thank you, motorcycle man and humanity in general! Pedal on.

This brings up an important topic, ladies. What would you have done in this situation? As much as I am loathe to admit it, any time we head out on our bikes by ourselves we are assuming some risk regarding "the crazies" (as I like to call them). Most of the time things are fine. And like the cyclist who posted this said, we "rarely, if ever, think about things that could potentially go wrong". But this should always be in the back of our minds. We all need to have an "Exit Plan" on our rides.

Last Fall on a ride I was followed up Lookout mtn in Golden by a random crazy guy. No matter what my pace, no matter what I did, said or didn't do/say he rode side by side with me. For 20 minutes. It started with a polite wave as I went by. That’s it. What I do to everyone. He jumped on my wheel and never left. At 1.5 minutes, I realized that he was insane. Completely. I hadn't had a situation like this on the bike in...well, ever. As luck would have it, that day I happened to be really under the weather. I wasn't riding well, I wasn't thinking clearly, etc. You know the feeling--how you feel right before you get slammed with the flu.

In retrospect, (and as my husband pointed out later) there were many things I COULD have done. I could have just stopped. I could have turned around and simply ridden down. I could have told him to go take a hike (or a variation of those words). I could have even called the cops, and told them I was being harassed. But instead? I did nothing. I rode my bike. I seethed. By the time we reached the top, I was feverish and...pissed. The more I thought about it, the more angry I became. ESPECIALLY when I discussed this with my husband later.

“You engaged him.”
“By waving as I went past?”
“By continuing to ride with him. By not just turning around and riding down Lookout. Or simply dropping him.”
“But why should I have to completely change MY ride plan, and MY pace due to some...crazy...GUY WHO WASN’T EVEN WEARING A HELMET?!?!?”
“I guess because...you’re a woman.”

Ouch. That hurt. I was almost insulted. I was furious that I wasn't strong enough that day to drop this guy who was obviously fueled on insanity (as well as the half dozen donuts he proudly told me he’d eaten that morning). I was irritated that I had been intimidated and I was really angry at my husband for seemingly not taking my side.

“A reversal of this situation would never have happened,” I pointed out.
“True. I would have dropped him. ”
“That’s not what I mean. A man would never have to worry about his safety on the bike because a woman was making him uncomfortable. Changed his ride plan, wondered if he’d been sending the wrong signals, etc.”
“...You're right.”


Photo: courtesy of Amanda Cyr

When I read the post from the cyclist coming down Bear Creek, it left a bad taste in my mouth. As well it should. When your panic instincts are on full alert, it's hard to think clearly. What would I have done? Probably stopped and called the cops. Probably. But cell-phone service is a gamble in this Canyon (as with many of the solo rides I do).

I guess I would have pretended to use my phone and took a picture of the parked vehicle. Or maybe flagged down a motorist. But in reality, those solutions make me cringe. How many times have you thought, "I'm probably over-reacting."? Ladies, I'd like to suggest that we don't worry so much about "over-reacting" and worry more about our safety. And if that doesn't do it for you, let's sprinkle in a little Catholic guilt. Think of the future safety of OTHER WOMEN.

I guarantee this wasn't the first time the Bear Creek Canyon Creep did this to a female cyclist. And it certainly won't be the last. Same with the guy on Lookout. I put it out on twitter and actually got a response from a female cyclist in Ft. Collins: “My sister rode with the SAME guy up Lookout about a month ago. It had to be him. He did the exact same thing to her.”

I'm not saying that I won't stop riding solo (although I did neglect Lookout Mtn for several days after that unpleasant experience), but I'm trying to remind myself to ride smart. On EVERY solo ride we do, let's have a "what would I do if..." plan in place. For you, your loved ones and the other female cyclists out there. Let's take a stand against the creeps out there. Call the cops. Call a friend. Flag a motorist down. Whatever you have to do to feel safe. And then as the woman said in her post, "Pedal on".



Photo: courtesy of @calverphoto
Women's Tour of Britain
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45 Comments

My wife had a very similar

My wife had a very similar experience with a crazy in a Tony Danza van near Taos several years ago. He kept passing her and stopping. She asked a cyclist that was passing her to ride with her for a few minutes until she got to our camping spot. She tends to run with mace most of the time.

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Points: 4

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Agreed

In fifteen years of racing and riding bikes I have had this happen so many times! And living on the Front Range we certainly have our share of "crazies" out there- cyclist and non cyclist. For cyclists, I tend to overreact if they are being idiots- sitting on your wheel and "joining" your group ride is just not cool. Fact is, if you are on a bike you should know that. My usual response to that is "I really did not want a training partner today- do you mind if I continue to ride alone?" Or I become a sarcastic bitch and say, "Were you going to even introduce yourself or just sit on my wheel all day!?" or some version of that. Being a female, you sometimes have to be equally as aggressive as the nuts-for-brains tool trying to ride with you/hit on you/whatever they are trying to do.
Non-cyclists- that's a bit tricky. Obviously they're in a car and that alone adds a lot of power behind their actions- and who knows if they have a gun with them or something like that. In those cases I memorize the license plate, stop and take a picture of it, or my newest favorite option- Dial *277 to be directed to the aggressive drivers line with the local police. A lot of those people don't even think of cyclist as people- and use the heft of their vehicle to intimidate cyclists.
Most drivers are completely clueless as to the rules of cyclists on the road. We have a legal right to be on the road- 3FT Law in Colorado, etc.
It's unfortunate that women even have to think about this stuff when all we are trying to do is have fun, get a good workout in, and get home. I have seen it happen to men too though, and anyone who trains on the road frequently will experience it at some point. Like other areas of our lives we do really just have to look out for ourselves, and yeah, sometimes pull the "I can be equally as crazy as you, if you try to mess with me " card.
http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/StatePatrol-Main/CBON/1251594510991

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your Lookout Mountain experience. I had EXACTLY the same thing happen to me last summer. A man, sans helmet, drafted off of me the entire ride up and proceeded to discuss donuts (apparently his go to?) and his gun collection. Not OK. It seems to me that someone should report this creep to the Golden police, as apparently that's his M.O.

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Exit Plan?

I am not sure how having an assumed exit plan does anything other than prepare you for a made up scenario that probably won't happen. Rational people cannot plan for irrationality or evil. I prescribe to situational awareness and in an extreme life threatening situation...concealed carry.

Contradictory and myopic

But isn't situational awareness and concealed carry essentially a "plan for irrationality or evil"? Besides, that's pretty limiting to presume that those are the only two ways to avoid/get out of a bad situation, especially if the guy in the pickup has also has a gun AND the drop on you.

Vote down!

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Myopic?

Concealed carry is not a plan of action. It is preparedness in case someone's life is imminent danger warranting an extreme response. If someone who is carrying can avoid the situation, they should. I know a number of people who have been threatened with bodily harm and have worked their way out of the situation without drawing their weapon because that was not the best course of action. You have a lot of explaining to do to local law enforcement if you draw on someone. To imply that "concealed carry [is] essentially a 'plan for irrationality or evil'" is extremely presumptive about people who qualify for and have received concealed carry permits. In no way, did the original statement limit or imply a limit that there are two ways to get out of a situation. Situational awareness is exactly what it means...being aware of the situation. There is massive space of choice making between knowing the situation and drawing a weapon. Ironically your response was myopic.

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Thank you for the

Thank you for the clarification. Your original statement was lean on such nuance.

As you are knowledgable on these matters, do you think female cyclists should carry a weapon?

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