"I'm never ever going to do X again": Bicycling, crimes, women and safety and living in the city
The Post has a brief article ("Pregnant woman stabbed while biking home from work in DC") about how a recent arrival to the city, a woman, 7 months pregnant, who lives in the Hill East/Potomac Avenue of Southeast DC/Capitol Hill, was stabbed by a pedestrian while riding home from work. From the article:
Police are looking for a black man between the ages of 30 and 40 and about 5 foot 11. He was wearing a black shirt and black jeans at the time of the stabbing at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, police said.
The victim said she does not know what the man’s intentions were — perhaps he was trying to steal her backpack, she said. She said that she is in the Coast Guard and just moved to the District from Hawaii about a month ago.
The stabbing makes her feel less safe in her new neighborhood.
“It will take me a while, I think, to get comfortable again. And unfortunately, I won’t be commuting to work anymore on my bicycle,” she said.
FWIW, I don't think the guy was trying to rob her. Likely he has mental health issues. The impolite way to refer to the guy is "he's crazy."
I say this because something similar happened to me about 20 years ago on the 1600 block of L Street NW, in an area with far more people and positive street activity.
I was cycling to work, "on the sidewalk," less than 100 feet from where I was about to lock my bike, on a signpost outside the office building where I was working at the time, when a black guy in his 40s or 50s, "swung a bag" at me, and hit me in the head.
I was prepared to just go about my business, chalking it as one of the many indignities of urban life, when I rubbed my head and I was bleeding. It turned out that the bag had tools in it. He just kept walking on, in the other direction.
I followed him for a couple miles, on buses off buses, etc., until he, me and police were in the same place, and I got him arrested. He was convicted and spent half a year in jail. But at the court hearing, where I testified, it was clear he was mentally ill. I was glad he got his "just desserts" but in the end I didn't feel particularly vindicated.
In any case, yes, I know I am a man, not a woman, and that impacts my cap/ability to get about the city safely.
But after that incident and many others (muggings, etc.) I did not stop biking, or get a car, or stayed inside, etc.
I did continue to learn how to take care of myself "more better." (I remember reading research from the Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science from the late 1980s or early 1990s about how young men are more frequent victims of crime because they frequent areas where crime is more likely to occur. I was living truth of that theory...)
DC--way safer today than it was in the early 1990s or late 1980s--is still a city and you have to take precautions in order to be as safe as it is possible in a place where people rich and poor and some with a propensity to commit crimes live in close proximity.
Even today, I am reasonably fearless about riding in most places in DC, although there is no question I feel less comfortable in some places more than others (e.g., riding up Morris Road SE or on Mount Olivet Road NE always makes me feel like an outsider, even up Maryland Avenue NE to go over to Aldi, past all the "loiterers at the Starburst intersection, bus stop, and along the curb). And being a white guy, stopping to take photos on Alabama Ave. SE or Good Hope Road SE can be pretty conspicuous, and not in a good way.
But I think the lady is wrong to make an irreversible decision about commuting by bicycle.
It's reasonable to change your behavior and actions (e.g., I finally stopped biking down K Street NE late at night by the old Thomas apartment building in the Sursum Corda area after many problems, but I didn't stop biking, what I did was divert around 2nd St. and ride around the back of the Gonzaga campus instead of on K St.).
But I don't think that has to mean stop biking, even if you're a woman.
Even if I would argue, when you're less mobile because you're seven months pregnant, if you normally travel in a less safe area, it might be reasonable to not bike, until you're no longer less physically capable of taking care of yourself.
And I might even argue sometimes, in certain places, I would argue it isn't safe to bike, and I wouldn't recommend it. But Hill East, generally, isn't one of those areas.
(E.g., something similar came up in Petworth last year. I wrote on a listserve that it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, being out on the street very late at night, drunk, with limited ability to take care of yourself, is a poor decision. This was in response to a sexual assault. I was challenged on this, about "blaming the victim" and I replied that in a city, to not take care of yourself increases the possibility of your becoming a victim and that precautions must be taken--like how I argue to "not use an ATM or buy gas late at night in cities, at least in particularly vulnerable, problematic areas.)
With regard to "globalizing" or "I'm never ever going to do X" in response to a particular event, some people in my extended circle have a habit of making these kinds of statements, and I am always perhaps too quick to make fun of them about it...