Let’s go on a little bike journey of the mind, shall we? Engaging your imagination station, I thought I would take you on a relatively “normal” bike ride that I (and my girlfriend, because riding should be shared) go on through San Pedro. I live at both the top and bottom of a couple of different hills that surround my little home. I also live on the coast and the edge of the Port of Los Angeles, so we get quite a bit of wind and lots of interesting smells (some much better than others). So, yes, my girlfriend and I hop on our bikes and start down a nice hill that ends at the start of a bike lane. Hurray! Sadly the bike lane only lasts a few blocks, in a relatively un-busy area and people like to keep their trashcans in the bike lane. But it is a bike lane – a rare, unicorn-status creature in the area that I live in. The bike lane ends and there are more people and bikes around, which means that there are more comments made at us and more ringing of my bell (and, when needed, yelling) back at them. We pedal along relatively busy streets, a few residential roads, dodge some ice cream trucks, street games, and make it to a much busier and narrower road full of lots of cars getting off the freeway (a major freeway literally ends in this neighborhood).
Before I continue on, though, I have to take a little detour into the land of “riding while female” in San Pedro (though I am sure that many other female riders will have had similar experiences elsewhere). For the first part of the ride we get the inane comments – like people mimicking my bell ring and screaming at us to say “hi” to them to more harassing ones like “pedal harder,” “hot bitch,” and crude sexual suggestions. The most disturbing thing that has happened to me so far was when I was pulling up to a red light next to a stopped truck. The passenger in the truck had already taken notice of me earlier and said some crude stuff but then proceeded to pull himself halfway out the car window. As I rode up, I saw he was going to try and pull me off the bike and I made a quick swerve away from him. He swung his arms and missed, but continued to say vulgar things at me. Very scary. I’ve at this point thrown down plenty of hissed curses that those guys will be impotent for a few years coming.
Now I write this because this is unfortunately an all too common experience for me and my girl riding around here. I am, however, deeply invested in making bike culture accessible and attractive to communities (like San Pedro) that could really benefit from it, even if it means battling harassment. I also am looking for allies and resources in the cause of making bicycling and bicycling environments friendlier for women (hiya friends out there in the blogosphere!). In future posts I will write more about bicyculture and feminism, but lets continue with my bike journey, because there are some redeeming qualities to biking in San Pedro.
So my girl and I make it to our destination (library, grocery store, $.99 store, Mishi’s Strudel cafe) and then take a slightly different path home. We sometimes run into more kids on these streets, packs of them riding their bikes. Now when I ring my bell other bike bells ring back in greeting. On the way back we have to bike up the hill we glided down before, but our legs are getting stronger and more importantly we take it easy. It’s about journey, not getting to the top of the hill, right? We slip into the corner store to pick up some sparkling apple cider and then flip on our lights at this point because it’s getting dark as we make our way home. Some folks have begun to recognize us, a few other bikers smile at us (and we smile back, even if they’re in lycra), and soon we’re home.
Yep. That’s a pretty average ride. And even though the harassment sucks, some days it is better than others and to be honest, not much could keep me off my bike right now. Soon I’ll post some pictures of some pretty outrageous ends to the bike lanes around here, as well as to other bikers cruising around, and maybe some dolphins. That’s right, we got dolphins, too. Slow dolphin movement, for real.
Ride easy. ♥