Glass Bottles, Bikes, and Borough Park

I’ve never felt unsafe before. That may be surprising, as I live in New York City, but I’ve never really feared for my physical safety. I’m a big lady and I’ve always felt comfortable walking or biking or taking the train at any hour of the day or night.

Last night, two men on a dark street stripped me of that sense of security.

I was riding my bike home from my friend’s house around 1:30AM. I had dressed up for Shabbat services in a cute, short dress and was feeling a little chilly. I was riding mechanically slowly, really only looking forward to getting home so I could curl up in my warm bed and watch some dumb recorded tv shows.

I ride through some pretty desolate areas on this route. Keep in mind, I’ve ridden this route several times a week since I started biking. I’ve ridden it at four in the morning before. It is the only way I use to get home when I’ve gone anywhere east of Prospect Park.

I approached the overpass of the D train on 39th street right near my apartment and passed two men. All of the sudden I heard someone running behind me and I turned around to see one of them chasing me on my bike. He was running full out only a few feet behind me. I screamed out “What the fuck are you doing?” and started pedaling as fast as I could. They screamed “bitch” at me and threw a glass bottle which shattered near my tires.

I was three blocks from my home.

I rode at full speed the last three blocks. When I got to my house, my hands were shaking so badly I could hardly lock up my bike. I was terrified that the men would have followed me home. I ran up my stairs and locked the door, finding an empty apartment. I sat on my bed shivering with fear, unable to really process what had just happened.

When I looked back at that man chasing me, I truly thought that he would overtake me and pull me off my bike. There aren’t a lot of street lights in that area and even less people out on the street. If they had wanted to take my bag, they could have. If they had wanted to sexually assault me and slit my throat, they could have. These are the thoughts that kept me awake as I huddled in my bed, to scared even to cry.

I don’t know what they’ve left me. I ride my bike every single day. I ride it to work, to friend’s houses, to the grocery store, to rehearsal, to meetings, to parties, and anywhere I want to go. I haven’t bought a monthly metrocard since June. My bike is an essential part of how I interact with the city. It’s my life. Yet now, when I think about riding in some of the areas where I travel on a regular basis — I am terrified. What if this happens again? What if next time I’m not fast enough? What if they do get me off my bike? I’m so scared, but I’m not allowed to be — I need my bike.

How can I reclaim the sense of physical security that they’ve taken from me?

Submitted by Emma

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