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
via GirlBikeLove

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45 Comments

At least you'll more than

At least you'll more than likely never know I have one on me. If you are going introduce facts and statistics please cite your sources. Otherwise we just assume you are turning your opinion into facts.

I don't experience this general tension between motorists and myself on rides.

I've seen a gun used by a

I've seen a gun used by a cyclist twice in my 1/4 century of riding. In both cases, they were drawn, but not fired, to dissuade an angry driver from deliberately running them over with their vehicles. If that's what you call doing something dumb with a gun, well... hopefully you'll never have someone try to crush you with an F150.

Many years ago I spent a bit

Many years ago I spent a bit of time riding with a guy in north La. that carried a CO2-powered BB pistol under his saddle, that ostensibly was intended for loose dogs out in the sticks (pretty much everywhere in La.) One day he had a guy try to run him off the road with his truck, even to the point of turning around and trying again. Luckily there was a utility pole nearby which the cyclist used to keep the driver from running over him, sort of like playing keep away as the driver did donuts around the pole. When he finally got out of his truck, he was the deserving recipient of a dozen or so BBs to the chest. Startled, he jumped back in his truck and took off. About 10 minutes later, he's back with a sheriff's deputy in tow, screaming that the cyclist tried to kill him. Escorted the deputy back to the scene, showed him the tire marks, and last we saw of the driver he was being hauled away in cuffs.

Good guys/bad guys

Years ago when teaching my two daughters personal safety practices I remember them asking if it wouldn't be rude to tell someone to stay away. I told them the good guys will understand and the bad guys' feelings don't matter.

This increases my interest in getting a helmet cam.

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