Verbal harassment of female cyclists by people in passing vehicles should be reported to police to reduce the sense of impunity which some car occupants feel, says Prof Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster.
As efforts are made to encourage more women and girls to cycle, there are concerns that remarks shouted by people from passing cars could become a significant deterrent. Last month a spotlight was shone on the issue when cyclist Nanw Beard, 30, of Cardiff posted footage online of herself chasing after a motorist and confronting him. She alleged that he had earlier pulled up alongside her and commented on her backside. Earlier the same day a man had threatened sexual violence against her, she claimed.
Aldred, who is director of the Active Travel Academy, told LTT: “Verbal harassment is threatening behaviour. It’s important to have the opportunity to report these things.” That could include witnesses asking the victim if they wished to report harassment.
“I think it’s part of a wider problem of harassment of women in public space. Sometimes experiences when cycling do get dropped out of that discussion. Discussion sometimes only focuses around walking and public transport.”
Making it easier to report verbal harassment would help, but it would be sad if female cyclists felt that they needed helmet or handlebar cameras to capture footage, she said, and some cyclists might not be able to afford cameras.
The goal was to make car occupants realise that they could be held to account for harassment, rather than being anonymous and protected by their metal boxes. She drew a parallel with trolling of women on social media.
Enforcement action could be difficult where the aggressor was a car passenger, but Aldred commented: “Maybe some people would be shocked into better behaviour by receiving a letter from the police saying this has been reported.”
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