Beautiful Ride – Ugly Reality

The day began with crisp fall air. I was ready for it as I pit on my vest, arm warmers, and head band. Dressed perfectly, I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail bound for DC and Friday Coffee Club. The ride in went so smoothly that as I rode onto the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River I had that strange how-did-I-get-here sensation. A tailwind and fresh legs (I drove to work yesterday) probably helped.

Coffee Club was crowded. It was good to see some faces that I haven’t seen in over a month. This definitely eased my recent feeling of social ennui.

I rode to work on the narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. I stop for DC-bound cyclists because there just isn’t enough room to pass on the fly. One of them asked me if the bridge was one-way. He was new to DC and he couldn’t believe the trail was so narrow. I assured him it wasn’t. Welcome to the land of improving bicycling infrastructure.

I left work and head for home, once again assisted by a trail wind. It was a similar vibe to the morning. No discernible effort involved. I barely broke a sweat. My delight in this wonderful autumn commute came to an end. I stopped to take a picture of this sign posted next to the trail north of Old Town Alexandria just after the Slaters Lane turn off.


It’s a sad reality to the women of this area that enjoying area trails comes with this risk.

Not 100 feet after starting up again I was passed by an on-coming woman running. She had earbuds in her ears.

Every safety expert I know warns against doing this. I know it sucks and it’s unfair but you are responsible for your own safety. Whether you are trying to avoid a potential human assailant or a garbage truck you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Speech over.

The rest of the ride was thankfully peaceful. For me at least.

Be careful out there.

3 thoughts on “Beautiful Ride – Ugly Reality

  1. I’m going to respectfully disagree about the earbuds thing. First, It’s my right as an adult human being, regardless of my sex or gender, to wear earbuds while walking or running. It is not a dangerous activity, and in my experience women can be assaulted whether they are wearing earbuds or not. It is also not my “responsibility” to make sure men don’t assault me. That’s on men. So instead of telling women what our “reality” is, how about you guys have a discussion on not assaulting women. I know this sounds kinda bitchy, but I’m really tired of sexual assault being framed as a “women’s problem” when its actually about MEN.

    (end rant)

  2. I agree it is your right to wear earbuds. Nevertheless, it is a dangerous activity to not be able to hear what’s going on around you whether you are a woman running on a trail, a cyclist riding on a road, or an individual walking through a high crime neighborhood. I also lock my doors to my home. These things are common sense to reduce the chance of a crime.

    Not wearing earbuds while running has been recommended for decades. One group that supported this was a group of women runners who formed an association over 20+ years ago specifically in response to assaults on women on the Mount Vernon Trail. The group was headed by Henley Gibble, a Mount Vernon resident who was assaulted on the trail. This article from 1993 specifically advises against wearing headphones.

    You can rage all you want about “MEN” and “guys” but it won’t do you a damned bit of good when you are attacked from behind because you couldn’t hear your attacker approach. I don’t wear headphones while riding my bike for the same reason. Some DRIVERS suck but I’d rather take simple, reasonable steps to protect myself than to make a debate point for all cyclists.

    So I am supposed to have a discussion with some “guys” about not assaulting women? Really? Do you have anybody particular in mind?

    All I am trying to do is keep someone else from getting attacked.

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