We talk a lot about safety at We Love Cycling. From keeping your bike well-maintained to obeying the rules of the road, there are many steps you can take to ensure you avoid unnecessary incidents and keep yourself safe. But there is also another kind of safety concern. It’s an important one and unfortunately, one that disproportionately affects women—personal safety when riding alone. Or rather, the danger posed not by traffic or potholes, but by people.
Whether motivated by the desire to unnerve, to steal, or something more sinister, the fact is that there are people out there with bad intentions and, as a solo cyclist, you are vulnerable. There is plenty of information about how runners can stay safe while training alone, but the topic isn’t as widely discussed in cycling. Nevertheless, it is an issue and unfortunately, attacks and violations do happen. If you often venture out alone on your bike, here are some tips for staying alert and what to do if something goes wrong
Stick to roads
Even if you prefer riding on country trails or wooded lanes, it is best to stick to populated roads when cycling along. Keep in mind that roads provide their own set of challenges and help you train your overall cycling skills and increase your awareness levels. Save exploring quiet trails for when you have company.
Use the buddy system
It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are, your route, and when you expect to return from your ride. Make an arrangement with another cycling pal to check in on one another after rides you do on your own. There are also apps available that can give you another layer of security. For example, bSafe tracks your location with GPS. The app also includes a ‘Follow Me with Timer’ feature and if you haven’t checked in when the time’s up, the alarm will alert your friends. Likewise, ROADiD, uses an ‘eCrumb Tracking’ feature to share your location while riding. If you’ve stopped moving for over 5 minutes, the ‘Stationary Alert’ will notify your selected contacts. It also gives you the ability to customize your phone’s lock screen to provide your medical information to First Responders in case of an emergency.
Vary your route
If you like to cycle alone often at a specific time, switch up your route regularly. This creates unpredictability in case a stranger notes your schedule. An added bonus is that it prevents you from getting bored and allows you to discover new areas.
Follow your intuition
If you feel like someone is following you or something seems suspicious—trust your instinct. You don’t have to be overly friendly to any stranger that approaches you, nor are you required to stop for anyone who happens to be waving you down. If you do find yourself in an uncomfortable scenario, take mental note of who, what, when and where—consider facial features, hair colour and a description of the vehicle.
Depending on where you live, it might also be a good idea to carry pepper spray. It can also come in handy in case of a dog attack. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but peace of mind while riding is also important. You can also arm your bike with tail lights that have a camera. Fly6 Cycliq is a good option. The videos they take are very clear and, depending on the memory card you get, they can even record long rides. They’ve also got smart features, so any detected incident is prevented from being overridden.
If you are being followed by a vehicle, keep cycling until you find somewhere with people that you feel safe stopping. Alternatively, dart down an alley or path where the vehicle can’t follow as soon as the chance presents itself. If you’re being followed by another cyclist, try to keep calm and continue riding to a more populated area. Never go home when somebody is trailing you suspiciously. If the person following you is up to something, you should never send them directly to your home or place of work. Go to a public place and approach someone for help.
Report the incident
Even if nothing bad ends up happening, you should always report any suspicious behaviour to your local authorities. It allows them to create a file and build a profile if someone else reports similar behaviour. Don’t be shy about admitting that you felt unsafe. You should never feel threatened while riding your bike and it is by drawing attention to incidents that do happen that collectively we can garner support and reclaim the space together.