Biking While Female — ‘Slut,’ ‘Bitch,’ and ‘Dumb Broad’

Car culture is bro culture.

Two large men physically intimidated a woman on a Citi Bike and prevented her from leaving because they said she scratched their car.
Two large men physically intimidated a woman on a Citi Bike and prevented her from leaving because they said she scratched their car.

Car culture is bro culture.

The sight of two men physically intimidating a woman cyclist on Tuesday by aggressively grabbing her Citi Bike handlebars to prevent her from fleeing for her own safety was just the latest incident of violent harassment that women cyclists feel every day.

After posting about Tuesday’s Midtown incident, Streetsblog asked women to share their #MeToo stories about being physically or verbally assaulted or intimidated while biking — and the response was overwhelming. Within minutes, at least a dozen women shared horrifying stories about aggressive drivers who either threatened or actually tried to hurt them with their cars. Sexist expletives being shouted out of a car window are just the beginning. 

The stories — tellingly, there are too many to share — offer a glimpse into the term “biking while female” and explain why so few women bike compared to men. It’s roughly a 72-28 split, according to city stats — and just 25 percent of all Citi Bike subscriber trips were made by women in 2018, according to the Department of Transportation.

Smile For Me

It’s a demand that too many women who walk the streets of New Yew York City have heard — “smile.” Despite the sting, it’s usually easy to brush off and walk away without incident — but when the man saying it is sitting inside a 3,000-pound motor vehicle right next to you and your tiny two-wheeler, that sexist request becomes a threat. 

“Once riding up Greenpoint Ave to Sunnyside a male driver pulled up next to me at a red light and asked me to smile (of course),” said Eillie Anzilotti. “When I ignored him he revved the engine when the light turned green and veered into me, forcing me onto the sidewalk. It was terrifying.”

Another biker said she was pedaling along Lorimer Street in Williamsburg when a truck driver cut her off — nearly hitting her — to make a right on red. When she yelled at him that he almost hit her, the aggressive driver blew her a kiss and smiled.

Female cyclists say they are frequently called “bitch” and “slut” by aggressive drivers, and even sexually harassed. Even when it’s not life-threatening, bro culture is consistently disturbing. 

“A grown man in a convertible once loudly asked me, ‘Can I lick it? Your pussy?’ said one cyclist who goes by the twitter handle Amyamyamyo.

Macho men who already feel invincible inside their cars believe they can spew whatever sexist garbage they want to women because they can then quickly drive off, protected by tons of metal. But to women on bikes, the harassment can often feel more like a violent threat.

“I have too many incidents that are too hurtful and loud in my memory to express in so few characters, but my sexual harrasment (sic) executive summary is that when you’re walking it’s “Smile, shorty” when you’re on your bike it’s “I hope you die you fat bitch,” said a cyclist, who tweets as Shops By Bike.

Taking Up Space 

All bikers who fight for their own safe space on the streets of New York City — which has yet to break its car culture — put themselves in danger. But that danger is worse for a woman on a bike, or a biker of color. 

“Asserting your right to street space is daunting enough when have to share the road with two-plus ton cars and so many others things,” said Laura Shepard of Bike NY. “Sometimes you signal or ask a driver to slow down and it’s terrifying when they respond by shouting. It’s usually some variation of ‘Fuck you, bitch.'”

One biker, Lauren Patti, said she was riding on Lafayette Avenue when the driver of a private sanitation truck swerved into the bike lane. Patti said she tried to pass him, to get ahead of the danger, but he started screaming the sexist expletives “slut” and “bitch,” and then turned directly in front of her, nearly hitting her and others inside a pedestrian crosswalk.

Lauren Rennée, another cyclist, said that the incident captured on video on Tuesday is a regular occurrence —Rennée said she was biking on W. 20th Street last Friday when an Uber driver started tailing her and honking at her because she wasn’t riding in the bike lane — because it was blocked by roadway construction.

Threats of Violence

If it’s not sexual harassment, it’s actual physical threats.

The woman who filmed Tuesday’s disturbing incident said that once she was biking on Second Avenue when a driver cut her off and started revving his engine. As she pedaled past him, he threatened to break her finger.

And another aggressive driver tried to mow down cyclist Bonnie Harper after she snapped a photo of him illegally parked in a bike lane, ironically right outside of a Brooklyn precinct, in June 2017.

“To add insult to injury, the driver realized afterward that I took his photo and took off after me. He first yelled at me with his window rolled down and then attempted to cut me off and hit me,” said Harper.

And another aggressive driver threatened to shoot a woman cyclist in the head back in February.

“Touch my fucking car again and I will put a bullet in your head,” the driver, who comes out of his car, can be heard saying on camera to the woman behind the prolific Twitter account, Bike Commuter NYC. Was the threat of violence strictly related to the gender of the alleged car-toucher? Even Bike Commuter NYC doesn’t know for certain, but gender often plays a role, she said.

“Being a woman can change that dynamic,” she said. “Some drivers seem to be more apologetic, while others become more aggressive. It’s almost like a ‘how dare a woman tell me what to do?'”

These horrifying stories are just a few of the ones women bikers told Streetsblog — they happen every day.

Streetsblog reached out to City Hall for the mayor’s opinion about the behavior of his fellow drivers. We will update this story if we hear back.

  • Joe R.

    Anyone who threatens “I’ll put a bullet in your head” more than likely isn’t packing. It’s a dumb thing to let anyone know you have a firearm, even in a right-to-carry state. It’s next level stupid in NYC, where carrying an illegal gun can get you a long prison sentence. If a cop had been around, the cop now has reasonable cause to search that jerk’s car. Assuming you’re legally carrying a firearm, the only time a person you encounter should know about it is if the time comes that you intend to use it on them. That’s the whole point of concealed carry, to catch the bad guys off guard.

    The Mayor and the NYPD own these incidents. By targeting cyclists in their stings, as well as in their rhetoric, they’re implicitly giving bike haters a free pass to go after them. This is much the same as Trump’s frequent tweets are encouraging hate crimes against various ethnic and religious groups, even if he’s not explicitly saying to do these things. The Mayor should resign immediately for this and other reasons.

  • William Lawson

    Cameras people, front and back. It’s time to start exposing these aggressive jerks, and getting them fired if they’re harassing women/risking lives on company time. Fuck them all.

  • kevd

    Even though the average NYC driver is better than 10 years ago, the sociopathic minority is getting more and more aggressive.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Great and important post, glad to see the other social media activity over this incident. Driver harassment has been accepted far too long, and it’s doubly vile when piled on top of misogyny. It’s often coupled with traffic violence, including intentional strikes, brushbacks, tailgating and other road rage type behavior. Thinking about putting pen to paper on some draft legislation right now!

    One footnote to all of this: I have seen some opinions floating around to the effect that a cyclist is not permitted to leave the scene of an incident causing property damage without leaving her information. This arises because the a-holes in the video cl;aimed that the cyclist scratched their precious car. But that is not true. There are two sets of “leaving the scene” laws, one set for operators of vehicles,and another set for cyclists. Vehicular operators are required to give information before “leaving the scene” in a property damage only collision (VTL s. 600(1)(a)), but cyclists are not (VTL 1240(1), 1241). Section 600(1)(a) does not apply to cyclists via VTL 1231, because of the exception in that section for “special regulations,” such as Section 1240(1) and 1241.

  • It should be noted that harassment isn’t just coming from drivers. A huge part of the reason I’ll run a red light when I’m biking is that when I stop, catcallers on the street will take the opportunity to harass me.

  • JarekFA

    One thing that I don’t quite understand about bro culture – despite kinda having been one myself when younger – is why they’re so anti-bikes.

    Like, when I power through a rainstorm for 5 miles, I feel freaking “tough” and “hard” and all that macho shit. Riding 17 miles roundtrip most days, is kinda exhilarating but also a challenge.

    I’d just think, biking on these city streets would earn points in the “how much of a man you are” scorecard, which ought to bring respect from the bro-types? But it does not. Like, I tap my foot with one pound of force, I’m a “tough guy.” But if I use my own power to propel myself for miles through this gauntlet — I’m a sissy soy boy?

  • Joe R.

    As a male rider I’ve noticed this happening to female riders. I feel vulnerable at red lights for a different reason, namely that people have thrown stuff at me, and also when I’m stopped I can’t quickly get out of the way if an out of control car comes.

  • Joe R.

    It’s actually even worse than that since many “bros” consider any guy on a bike to be a (insert derogatory f-word for homosexual).

    For the reasons you mention, I’ve never understood why GOP conservatives don’t embrace cycling as well. To me getting around under your own power epitomizes the self-sufficiency they’re always promoting.

  • Lou Savastani

    Most bro-types act tough to cover inadequacies. A large and/or fast car is just another part of that.

    If they could do what we do, they would. But they can’t. So they mock.

  • GuestBx

    Bro culture isn’t anti-bike. A-holes just hate anything they perceive as an inconvenience for themselves. “Bike = slowing me down.”

  • Stephen Simac

    Legal Aggression is a better term than micro-aggressions, because much of these threatening, aggressive actions by motorists are legal (or not prosecuted, ticketed, fined) and common because of that, whatever the gender of the cyclist/pedestrian. Of course there’s usually only a fine line between that attitude of impunity and macro-aggressions that injure and kill non-motorists.

  • LimestoneKid

    “We will update this story if we hear back.”

    So what you’re saying is that there won’t be an update to the story.

  • WodOffPooH

    I usually yell at bike riders, I’m also one, while driving because they’re not very good at decision making. Bike riding is hard, being good at it in NYC is a totally different skill set. Though I dont support yelling at anyone I will say that white women tend to be the most privileged and least realistic riders and pedestrians in NYC. I have no personal issue with white women. Just as a driver, biker and pedestrian I see how they ride and interact with the world might be annoying or worrisome to a driver. Walking out into crosswalks head down and on the phone with a small dog. Cutting off buses and trucks as a matter of fact instead of doing what is safe. Looking at the crosswalk sign and not what the traffic is doing. It’s really scary to tell the truth.

  • WodOffPooH

    Bike riders in NYC ride on the sidewalk, against traffic and run red lights every damn day and never get tickets. Hell most riders don’t even know that you’re supposed to ride with traffic. As a driver and a biker it is very annoying. Girl who was hit in Brooklyn on buchwick Ave was do all three. And then everyone tried to blame the cement truck who was following all laws. So I know u want to be up in arms but bike riders are not without fault. I won’t mention how dumb all Citi bike riders are.

  • WodOffPooH

    Lemme guess ur white?

  • bettybarcode

    Right? Brave the elements while out hiking, camping, or rock-climbing and your masculinity cred is enhanced. Brave the elements on a bike and your masculinity cred is at risk. I have never understood it.

  • William Lawson

    Wow yawn who cares

  • Ohnoyoubetterdont

    Are u for real? You break the law and endanger others because you are afraid someone might catcall at you? Isn’t that the very definition of selfish douchey rich white people problems? ‘Oh somebody might say something to me on the way to get my kombucha…better not care about anyone but me…here I go through the red light.’ Get a life.

  • Ohnoyoubetterdont

    That needs to be changed so cycle douche bros don’t get to just ride off. #cyclistsalwayssuck

  • WodOffPooH

    U want to get people fired. Like no job, no way to support their families, because they hurt ur feelings and said something not so nice? You’re def not a new Yorker lol. Are you really from Wyoming? Ur def from Wyoming.

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  • William Lawson

    Don’t want to get fired? Don’t physically menace women half your size on the street. Do you really think I give a fuck whether some flabby MAGA supporting cnut from Staten Island thinks about where I’m from?

  • WodOffPooH

    Physically menace lol then move out of New York. If you’re too much of a punk to handle confrontation then this isn’t the city for you. I’m not MAGA I am a black man from Brooklyn and I am a bike rider. I just think ur view is silly flawed and so one sided it’s ridiculous. Confrontation is good. That’s my cultural norms. I’m not sending a punk ass email. I’m an actual new Yorker Mr. Lawson. But I hear Colorado is really nice and everyone hugs and sings to each other. Stop being so soft.

  • Mcmadness

    race card for no reason lol wow

  • Steven Alvarado

    Isn’t that always the case when the card is pulled?

  • Seymour Butz

    let me guess, you’re an ass

  • Seymour Butz

    #LearnToCode

  • Seymour Butz

    actually if the street is clear to cross, a bicyclist is much safer to jump the light and get a quick head start before the cars, many cities in Europe recognize this and set the signals as such, but a little research yourself is highly unlikely based on your uninformed comments blaming everyone on a bike

  • Ohnoyoubetterdont

    #cyclistsalwayssuck

  • WodOffPooH

    Nope I’m black and sick of living within white norms. Y’all just soft and not cut out for NYC.

  • WodOffPooH

    Just what I said above, not much difference between MAGA white folk a bike riding liberal whites. Same thoughts different coin.

  • Ohnoyoubetterdont

    Nah it’s just douchey cycle bros who keep whining ‘Im gonna ride my bike and nobody’s gonna stop me waaaaahhhhh.’ #cyclistsalwayssuck

  • Tomas Paine

    How do you even know these two people are even “men” you idiot. How do you know they’re not women?

  • Eric W

    I’m kinda thinking that if I had been there I would have gotten in front of those two. Two guys man-handling the bike of a women just doesn’t seem right. We want more women to cycle right? Every once in a while the chivalrous knight in me is called for. This sure looks like the time to step up.

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  • Isaac B

    …it may have been a cop.

  • Isaac B

    I have no personal issue…

    Really?

  • Andrew
  • Andrew
  • Isaac B

    The things cyclists experience and are described here are “aggression”, not “microaggression”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microaggression

  • William Lawson

    I just know.

  • Stephen Simac

    Macro-aggression by FUV’s is common, but even more typical is edging into the crosswalk, close calls or parking across a sidewalk/ bike lane. It’s an allusion to autosupremacy, which gives drivers the ability to kill or crash into a ped/cyclist and rarely face legal consequences, gives them most of the available public road and storage space as their commons, then feel aggrieved if some of that space is provided for other users or uses.

  • nodolra

    Perhaps seeing someone braving adverse conditions on a bike makes them feel inadequate for sheltering in the comfort of a car and they feel the need to lash out and assert dominance.

  • nodolra

    Given the amount of harassment and straight-up aggression I’ve received as a white male cyclist I can’t even imagine how bad it must be for women and people of color.

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