I live about a mile and a half from where I work. I used to walk to work, and now I ride my bike, almost exclusively. (There are about two weeks in the winter when I will walk or take the bus.)
There are a lot of advantages to riding my bike. It’s faster, it’s more fun (wheeee!), and I also think it’s safer. I mean, obviously riding safely on the roads is a whole ‘nother blog post, but in the not getting mugged/murdered/raped/generally harassed sense, I feel a lot better on my bike.
I have long listed this as a great reason for me to ride my bike, to work or around the neighborhood, but this weekend I really, really felt safer on two wheels. Chris and I were riding home from City Park. We came to a stoplight and were spaced out so that while he went through just fine, I felt like I should stop. I sat at the light, it was raining a little. There was a group of men standing on the corner. I was wearing a bright fuschia dress and a bike helmet.
One of the men looked at me and said “Hey, girl!”
I gave a tight smile and looked back at my light.
The man opened his arms wide and started walking toward me. He said something, but I didn’t understand it. My impression was he was coming in for…a hug? I was almost as worried about a strange man coming towards me as I was that, if the light changed, we’d suddenly be blocking traffic.
I stammered, “I…uh…NO!”
And took off on my bike. I am a rule follower, so I didn’t run the red light, but I did make a completely safe and legal right on red.
I felt so happy I was on my bike, not trying to outrun someone.
Later, in typical girl fashion, I worried I’d overreacted or even been rude.
But then the Awesome Mel inside of me was like, “Listen, Meek Mel. People can’t just start yelling at you and walk up to you in the road and not expect you to get the eff out of there. You are allowed to be rude to people who are making you feel unsafe.”
I don’t know how to end this story. That’s how it ended. I probably would have been fine if I stayed put until the light turned green. But I’m glad I could, and did, ride away.