Sexism, Gender Bias, or… Chivalry?

How and why menacing motorists heckle female vs. male cyclists – or not.

“Don’t you know that it’s different for girls?”

Harassment or heckling of cyclists by manic motorists on the roads of the world is a hot and seemingly inexhaustible topic in the cycling community.  Tragically, a number of these encounters result in injury or death of the cyclist.  For most, thankfully, the result of car vs. bike is more often an emotionally frustrating experience that drains a blissful bike ride of all its inherent joy.  The concerning part of that equation – and the reason why we all get in such a lather over these merely verbal taunts – is that any time an angry motorist veers toward a cyclist the potential for tragic physical injury is clear and present.  Any driving instructor will caution you that all but experienced stunt drivers will automatically and gradually point the car toward whatever the driver is looking at.  Essentially, if a driver’s attention is focused on you, he or she is going to get too close whether or not their intention was to endanger you… even if that attention is considered generally “positive”.  And that is where my perspective comes in.

I have been riding bikes for…  a long time.  I have been reading the accounts, blogs and articles concerning harassment, written almost exclusively by men, in the cycling community with increasing puzzlement.  I’ve been pondering this issue out on the pavement for some months, as car after car gives me a gracious and WIDE berth on the quiet, rural roads I’ve been riding on of late.  I think back at the seeming lack of negative encounters I’ve had even on urban and suburban routes.  Sure, I’ve been passed too close, but rarely has it seemed intentional rather than absent-minded.  The only menacing taunts I’ve ever received have been from rambunctious children in the backseat of SUVs screaming “Ride like Lance!” “Boo!’ or some other silliness.  It makes me jump out of my skin sometimes but it doesn’t oppress my soul or destroy my bike buzz.

I have been cat-called, wolf whistled and AAA-WOOed.  Like most cyclists of any age I pack fabulous back and men often voice their approval.  No harm, no foul.  There have been a few, very few, encounters that have gotten ugly.  Muscle cars with tinted windows have cruised me, passing and circling the block until I finally pull into the driveway of a lighted house or business and wait for them to lose interest.  It’s the silent ones who are really terrifying.  The worst by far are the three instances in which some moronic driver in an open car pulled up alongside me and cheered his moronic passenger on as he reached for a handful of my ass – this is a compliment no woman needs.  Ladies, if this ever occurs to you get the license plate number, stop as soon as it’s safe and call the police.  Grabbing someone’s ass without their consent is called sexual battery and when it’s done from a moving vehicle it’s a felony.  If the halfwit succeeds in his stunt with you, egged on by his bros, guaranteed he’ll keep doing it until some unlucky, nerve-wrecked girl wobbles and goes “crunch” under his wheels – when it becomes third degree murder.  Call the cops; they will take you seriously.  All three of my assailants and their drivers were caught and charged.  As unpleasant as that was, one knucklehead per decade is not that bad considering the frequency of ride-ruining run-ins with road-ragers that my male counterparts suffer through.  Are there more women out there fielding equal amounts of grief and they just aren’t writing as much?

For the most part my encounters with motorists are polite, complimentary or, overwhelmingly, blissfully non-existent.  So what’s up?  Do angry men behind the wheel recognize the curves and leave us be?  Does a guy pass me hurriedly only to see a fair face in his rear view (impinging on his right-hand turn) and think ‘oh, it’s a chick’ and cool his jets instead of yelling “Get out of my way, you stupid bitch!”?  Are men reluctant to scream at a woman in the street because they recognize it as a form of violence against women?  Do guys on bikes simply bring out the worst in guys driving cars?  Do men, already fuming over a bad day, think another bloke on a bike (protected only by a thin skin of lycra)  is a safe target on which to unload their angst, whereas hurling obscenities at a woman would just be Wrong?  Is it all ego and testosterone, rivalry versus chivalry?

I read a statistic that male cyclists killed by motorists outnumber females 7 to 1.  You could answer that simply by saying, ‘well, there are more men out there on bikes’.  Not that many more.  The majority of the men who were fatally injured were between the ages of 50 – 54, so you can’t say that it’s because men engage in riskier behavior.  What’s going on out there, boys and girls?

I think it’s a topic worthy of discussion.  Please weigh in!  Comments encouraged!

Scribbling To Vegas!

Bike Scribbling LIVE at Interbike!

Last year this Bikechik went to Interbike to see what she could see.  Darn near made my head spin clean off!  There, primarily, in a journalistic capacity I was a total NEWB, an Interbike virgin!  By the time I’d gotten the lay of the land it was time to go home.  Well this year I am returning a veteran (maybe that’s over-stating).  I’m armed and dangerous and bringing the Bike Scribbles along for the ride!  I’ll be painting a Bike Scribble on canvas LIVE in the Urban Legend Lounge (they’ll have beer there!) and raffling it off to benefit Kids on Bikes, Bikes For Kids Foundation and 1,000 Bikes Foundation.  Raffle tix are two bucks ($2.00 US) each.

Every $200 donated provides a deserving child with a bike, helmet, lock and school based curriculum including bike safety education.

You’ll even get a sticker like this for your trouble:

Such a deal!

Please click on links to learn more about these wonderful charities.

And please spread the word!


Bike Scribbling LIVE at Interbike!
Raffle of painting to benefit charities that provide bikes to disadvantaged youth.

What: Cycling artist Kathleen King will be painting a Bike Scribble, live at Interbike.  The 6″x 5″ canvas entitled “Vegas or Bust” will interpret the Interbike experience as a Bike Scribble.  Acrylic on canvas stretched on a gallery wrap frame. Estimated value: $6,000. A sketch of the design will be displayed in the painting area.

Why: The painting will be raffled off to benefit three cycling charities that focus on providing bikes for disadvantaged youth. Raffle tickets will cost $2 each. Those who purchase raffle tickets will receive Bike Scribble stickers. Purchase as many tickets as you like!

Who: Colorado; California; LA, NYC, Boston, Las Vegas

Where: Interbike, show floor, Sands convention center  – The Urban Legend Lounge will have coffee in the AM, full bar in the PM, free wifi, and bikes and commuter gear on display. Grab a coffee and a colleague to do some business, or enjoy a beer during the 3rd annual Urban Legend Fashion Show. The Fashion show will be held twice this year; Wed and Thurs at 3:30pm – be there!

When: All five days of Interbike – September 20 – 24. Winner will be chosen at noon on Friday the 24th.

Ultimate Why:  Because every childhood should have a bicycle in it.

Cycling Kept Close to the Heart

TdF pendant

I didn’t get to go to the Tour de France this year…but a few little Bike Scribbles sure did!

It’s moving day. Cyberspace moving day.  My blog and website are being merged, along with a new Bike Scribble store. Today. Literally a year of preparation has passed to arrive at this moment.  It has been a jam-packed year on terra firma as well. This time last year I was leaving Cortez, Colorado for Santa Barbara, California after finishing the big mural for Chris Carmichael at CTS and planning for Interbike 2009.  I just arrived back in Cortez two weeks ago after spending the previous 9 months in California’s central coast near San Luis Obispo. I have murals to paint here, and, of course, Interbike 2010 is only six weeks away.  This area of Southwestern Colorado, Pagosa Springs to Durango, Dolores, on past Cortez to the Four Corners Monument, is filled with awe-inspiring natural beauty and endless cycling opportunities…. But more on that later.  Now for…

pendant with original 1km

The BIG NEWS at hand: Bike Scribble Pendants!!

Several months ago, while at a planning meeting for SLO Gran Fondo in San Luis Obispo, I had the great pleasure of meeting Tess Stapleton, who is chairing the SLO Gran Fondo event. Tess saw the Bike Scribbles and suggested they would be great on jewelry. That idea had never crossed my mind, but one of her friends knew of a jeweler in town who might be right for the concept and we started talking.  Jeweler Lisa Leonard just happened to have a husband who was crazy about cycling and they both loved the idea. Lisa created a mock up and we showed it to Tess. Tess and her husband, Bob, happen to own a little professional cycling team called HTC-Columbia who would soon be racing in the Tour de France.  Tess ordered 30 of them on the spot to give as gifts to team members while at the race. We kept it quiet so the team could have time with their unique gift. The exclusive team design included the special charm “tdf 2010″. Only HTC Columbia’s pendants come with that charm, but now the “1km” pendant itself is available for purchase for any cyclist who wants to keep a bike close to their heart.  Many thanks to Tess for her bright idea!

1kmpendantPlease click on the photo and it will take you to the store

There are two designs available to choose from now and more styles will be added as the months go by.  If you would  like a ‘good luck’ talisman to hang ’round your neck and kiss like the pros as you cross your personal finish line, these will do nicely. Soon there will be more news of big bike shop murals and Bike Scribble jerseys so please stay tuned!

The Comeback Trail

We’re going to play a little game called “find the bike or cyclist in this picture”. I didn’t plan on it but there were so many cyclists training on this road I just went with it. There’s one in about every other shot.

Click on the photos to enlarge and they’ll be easier to see.

The subtitle of this blog is: “It’s All Terrifying and it’s All Beautiful”. Never before have I witnessed a scene that exemplified that sentiment so well as what I am about to show you. As many of you know the neighborhoods around East and West Mountain Road in Santa Barbara were laid waste by the Tea Fire. That road is the way to the infamous “beyond category” 3,998 ft alt. hill climb simply known as “Gibraltar Road” and therefore a favorite haunt of cyclists including myself.

I watched as the 300 ft flames climbed into the sky that night and roared, fast, ferocious and deadly down the hillsides, whipped by 70 mph winds. I prayed for the people in those houses. “Run! Get out!” I whispered under my breath. When the fires had all been put out I made a point to ride up to that area on the days that followed, my goal being this:

What had happened to the art collector with the sculpture garden and the cyclist fashioned into a mailbox? I had to know. It took over a week to get there. Edison crews pulled the barricades back a block at a time as they replaced the torched telephone poles.

Here he is today:

As I rode past driveways I knew well I saw instead the houses that high hedgerows had hidden, now reduced to smoking ruins. The air was still oppressive, the smell of smoke filling my nostrils. I rode slower and slower and slower… I couldn’t take my eyes off the blackened smoldering hillsides, the trees, the mailboxes, the twisted metal and wire of all the things that days before had been an everyday part of someone’s home.

No time to get the mail.

This bike tried to run from the fire by climbing a tree.

I wasn’t alone. There were other cyclists and motorists and joggers. We all had the same look on our faces. The way people look at a wake for a child. All I could think about was how horrific that night must have been, to be trapped in one of these canyons. I could see how the hungry fire had fingered through the creek beds like a thief, torching the trees from underneath, curling up the embankments to devour everything. The power had gone out shortly after the fire had started. No light to gather your belongings, children, pets. No street lamps to show a way through the thick smoke. The few narrow roads out must have been chaos. I have never been filled with such sorrow simply looking at a landscape. On the first trip I couldn’t take any photos. I would raise my camera and slowly lower it back down and turn it off. The camera couldn’t see the way it felt. I slogged back the way I came and didn’t pick up my pedal stroke until my path was greener and I was beyond the burn zone.

I resolved to return and document, document, document. When I did I began to see such beauty. Cast-iron black trees against blue sky and chocolate earth. A thousand shades of umber, sienna and rust. Then on the last trip… GREEN! Like a fresh splash of cool life on the eyeballs, NATURE was coming back. And that made it even more beautiful. I wish I was more of a photographer with a proper camera and lenses because I can’t hope to do it justice. My friend Carson Blume, cycling photographer, is sick this week otherwise I would have got him up here. I hope you get the idea anyway.


Remember Christo? The artist who wrapped an island in pink plastic? I know it’s hard to see but this is an entire hillside wrapped in burlap. It looks so surreal up close and it’s BIG.

More burlap hill
(see tiny cyclist?)

A sculpture I could not see before because it was beyond the gate, obscured by trees.

Kind of proud of my calves these days. They’re not massive or anything but I’ve always had trouble growing them and for me they are huge. Thanks for reading and Enjoy your rides!