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Calling all men

On a recent ride I passed a woman by the side of the road. It happens. They are, after all, half the human race.

She'd been running. No matter, I'll talk to anyone if the opportunity presents itself: even non-cyclists.

I said this: "The roads around here." My full meaning, from one road user to another, was along the lines of "The roads sure are terrible, aren't they?", the context being the appalling stretch of tarmac I had just picked a careful line through.

She looked up, uncertain why I was talking to her. I noticed she appeared to be wearing headphones. She was also a bit younger than I'd first thought, maybe late teens or early 20s. She said "Pardon?"

I don't remember exactly how I replied, only that I hadn't meant to alarm her. She sort of smiled and that was that.

Except that wasn't that. I immediately mentally kicked myself for having disturbed her, on whatever level. That half smile could have meant anything from "You're so right, the bloody council, what are they like?" to "[Smile placates strange man.]"

It's normally fine to chat to people, half the human race included, on these chance encounters. But it's easy to forget, particularly when you're a man, that you should choose your moments carefully.

Example 1: Woman walking dog. Say "Hello!" to announce myself as a passing cyclist (I don't favour bells for this purpose: a little too pushy, despite the seemingly cheery Ring-ring!) A Hello! is always appreciated, judging by how often I'm thanked. The sex of the person never comes into it, other than perhaps a split second as they quickly grok the situation.

Example 2: The scenario presented above. It's unclear why this stranger is suddenly talking to you. While it can be cleared up quickly, it can just as quickly get awkward. Chalk up what they call a teachable moment in a lifetime of them. Every day is school day.

A Guardian letter a few years ago:
Men must learn how to make women feel safe while exercising

Dr Kathy Dodworth wrote:

It is unbelievable that Chris Boardman’s words can be so basic and obvious to female athletes and yet still so needed by men (Calling all men: this is what we can do to help women feel safe exercising in the dark, 30 October). Exercising solo, especially at night, is often a different experience for the two. One day last year I was cycling along the (very wide) Forth and Clyde canal; my fitness was great and I had a fine tailwind. I passed a man who had been dawdling, when suddenly he sped up and started slipstreaming me, within a couple of feet. This was in broad daylight, but the canal was empty.

I was worried in case he was somehow angered by me passing him, so I kept going for around 5km, after which my panic was really starting to interfere aerobically. I signalled that I was going to stop as he was so close to me, sat down on a bench and pulled out some food. He stopped too. “Thanks. I needed that,” he said, before asking me about the rest of my cycle. I refused to engage as I was recovering from the shock. A perfect example of how some men have no idea how intimidating their actions can be to women.

Look, I'm not some knight in shining armour on a mission to protect all womenkind. I'm just a guy offering advice to other guys who may not have given this stuff much thought before.

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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14 comments

Avatar
don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

Knowing how easy it is to trigger males in the cycling world, perhaps we could have some guidelines for dealing with snowflakes.

 

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Left_is_for_Losers | 1 month ago
0 likes

Weird post. 

Don't say anything if you're unsure. If you do speak to someone, just do it in a decent non-creepy way. 

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Tom_77 | 1 month ago
4 likes

Quote:

I'll talk to anyone if the opportunity presents itself

Speaking as an introvert, maybe don't do that.

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Sam Walker replied to Tom_77 | 1 month ago
0 likes

Tom_77 wrote:

Quote:

I'll talk to anyone if the opportunity presents itself

Speaking as an introvert, maybe don't do that.

I'm not going to cease interacting with strangers because there are introverts about. [I used to be an introvert.] Naturally, I judge each situation and act accordingly; I certainly never push myself on anyone, unless a 'Hello' is now considered pushy.

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brooksby replied to Sam Walker | 1 month ago
5 likes

Sam Walker wrote:

…unless a 'Hello' is now considered pushy.

Can be, sometimes.

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David W replied to Tom_77 | 1 month ago
1 like

Introvert or extrovert, speaking as a man, I'm careful not to say anything to a female stranger that I would be concerned about a male stranger saying to me in prison. 

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chrisonabike | 1 month ago
2 likes

Yep.  As very often in life if something doesn't affect you it's not so much that it's hard to sympathise, it's that the issue is actually invisible to you.

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Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
3 likes

One thing I've always found problematic, as somebody who always tries to check if a rider by the side of the road needs tools, a spare tube, a phone to call assistance or whatever, is stopping for lone women when I'm riding on my own as well. My solution is generally, if possible, to move as far out in the road as possible and slow down and call out "Can I help with anything?" - giving them a chance to accept or refuse without a large male crowding into their space. It's a tricky one sometimes, particularly on lonely stretches of road, one doesn't want to frighten anyone or indeed seem patronising ("Need a man to help you with that, love?") but equally just for one's own peace of mind as much as anything one doesn't want to ride past ignoring the situation and not render assistance that might be very welcome. I know there aren't very many women on here, it would be interesting to hear the opinion of those who are as to what they think the best way for men to behave in such situations?

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Steve K replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
5 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

One thing I've always found problematic, as somebody who always tries to check if a rider by the side of the road needs tools, a spare tube, a phone to call assistance or whatever, is stopping for lone women when I'm riding on my own as well. My solution is generally, if possible, to move as far out in the road as possible and slow down and call out "Can I help with anything?" - giving them a chance to accept or refuse without a large male crowding into their space. It's a tricky one sometimes, particularly on lonely stretches of road, one doesn't want to frighten anyone or indeed seem patronising ("Need a man to help you with that, love?") but equally just for one's own peace of mind as much as anything one doesn't want to ride past ignoring the situation and not render assistance that might be very welcome. I know there aren't very many women on here, it would be interesting to hear the opinion of those who are as to what they think the best way for men to behave in such situations?

I call out something like "got everything you need" - then it doesn't make it "man knows better than woman" but gives the chance to ask for help if needed.

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quiff replied to Steve K | 1 month ago
3 likes

Steve K wrote:

I call out something like "got everything you need" 

This also works for me as I tend to have the tools but no idea how to actually use them, so can't really offer to help. 

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Steve K replied to quiff | 1 month ago
5 likes

quiff wrote:

This also works for me as I tend to have the tools but no idea how to actually use them, so can't really offer to help. 

This is also me.

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jaymack replied to Steve K | 1 month ago
0 likes

You beat me to it, have another 'like'

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ravenbait replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
2 likes

Pretty much this. It's just a case of appreciating wary women need more personal space. "Do you need help?" or "Do you have what you need?" or a simple, "Are you okay?" from a reasonable distance is perfectly fine. Stopping right next to and bending over her demanding, "Let me do that," is not. Hanging around to criticise is also bad. Standing there watching and trying to make small talk while she tries to get her Marathon back on the rim isn't all that great, either. TBH, the best thing you can do is stop other men doing things like this, because the kind of bloke that does this isn't going to be put off by women telling him to get in the sea.

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mattw | 1 month ago
3 likes

Good thoughts.

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