We can talk about urban density, city planning, and walkability all we want. If folks don't feel safe, it's going to be much harder to get them out of their cars.
The other day, I was walking through my neighborhood on the way to drop some new products off at a local, handmade boutique. I was carrying my purse and a shopping bag with some of my wares inside. As I turned off of my street, I could feel someone's eyes on me. A quick glance confirmed that two men were walking on the other side of the road staring.
When they saw me look over, I said hello, and they said hi back and then asked if they could carry my bags for me. It didn't feel like a neighborly hello - more like a creepy hello. Luckily, when I turned off of that street, they went the other way, but I was still shaken up.
It's been two years since I was mugged on my street, but that moment sticks with me, and every once in a while I get a reminder that walkability doesn't mean much if you don't feel safe walking places.
Bikes for Safety
One kind person read about my mugging and sent a really thoughtful email suggesting that she feels much safer riding her bike. On a bike you're moving faster, and you're in the road.
I totally agree. Sure, you're still somewhat exposed on a bike, but not nearly as much as when you're walking. If someone on foot were to approach you, it would be a lot easier to get away.
Walking and Safety
I love walking. Running and cycling are fun, but sometimes I feel like I could walk all day long. Still, I sometimes take the car or scooter to run errands that I could just as easily handle with my two feet, because I'm scared to carry my purse when walking alone.
If we're going to have truly walkable neighborhoods, we need them to be safe places too. In Atlanta, where I live, we don't have nearly enough police. Heck, on the day that I was mugged 911 put me on hold! Twice! How can we expect folks to get out of the safety of their cars if they feel like the police don't have their backs?
There are some measures you can take to be safer while on foot:
- Be aware of your surroundings. That means ditching the cell phone and the iPod. This does double duty, helping you stay alert while making you look like a less easy target.
- Carry a decoy. Wear clothing with pockets and stash your valuables there. That way, if someone does snatch you purse, they don't get any of the goods. If you don't carry a bag, you might consider a decoy wallet that you could give up if necessary.
- Blend in. Flashy jewelry, large purses, and designer labels make you a more desirable target. Keep your nice things hidden until you get to your destination.
- Safety in numbers. If you can, don't walk alone. You're much less likely to be attacked if you're with people.
- Consider a personal alarm. There are lots of options out there. Look for something that's over 130 decibels and with a hidden off switch. I prefer this to something like pepper spray, because an attacker can't get your alarm away and turn it on you.
- Choose your route carefully. If possible, walk on busier streets. You're often much safer when there are other folks around than on a secluded side street.
Do you guys have any tips for staying safe from crime while walking or cycling? I'd love to hear them in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by loungerie