A Hollaback! team member: “Riding my bike to work. Driver in a van sounds the horn EVERY TIME he passes me. Which is several times.”

Just the “regular harassment” one of the Hollaback!Brussels team members got today: Riding my bike to work. Driver in a van sounds the horn EVERY TIME he passes me. Which is several times. A bike is slow, but there are many traffic lights where the cars have to wait.
That’s it. You get that so regularly you don’t even talk about it any more? So do I. Does that make it right? Hell no. I won’t even react anymore if anyone sounds the horn at me. That means I won’t react either if someone really wants to warn me of DANGER – you know, in the way the horn SHOULD be used. I was told by random guys that my jacket was about to fall off my bike when it was NOT, just because they wanted to get my attention. Guess what? The next time a guy tells me the exact same thing, and I don’t stop, and my jacket DOES fall off, gets into the spokes of the tire and I fall down, he’ll call me plain stupid because, you know, HE TOLD ME, right?

Do I feel the urge to stop at the traffic light, put my bike into the car/van driver’s way so he won’t be able to move his vehicle, and tell him off? Yes, of course. Am I doing it? No. I don’t want to get in trouble because of endangering road traffic. If I give him the finger, he’ll laugh at me or start insulting me. If it’s a private car/van, I cannot even call the company in order to submit a complaint. I’ve got no means to defend myself.
And that’s the bottom line of street harassment: a power game. You know what? I get reminded every single day why I’m doing Hollaback.

P.S.: If anyone knows about an efficient way to react in this situation: Please tell me. I’m open to any suggestions.

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3 Responses

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  1. Jana says:

    Hey,
    I understand the urge to throw your bike in front of the van. I actually did that once, at nighttime. The guys in the car threathened to call the police. I told them to do it. So they did.
    The police came and the guys in the car started to tell them what i did, the police asked for my passport (which i didn’t have on me) i told them my social security number and adress, told them i lived right around the corner. The police let me proceed home, they made the guys park their car on the side of the road. I drove off so i don’t know what happened next. I was pretty shook up but still glad i took action.

  2. D. -Hollaback Gent says:

    When I read your post, an idea came up to me to hollaback. I used it a while ago when I was in situation with children who were constantly trying to get my attention: I motivated them to repeat their behaviour, untill they got sick of themselves doing that. Important is that you say it in a neutral way.
    Example: say ‘Sound the horn again when you pass me again on the next traffic lights.’ This way, you take control (you give the order to sound the horn) and, most importly, you take your (hollaback)power back :-)!!!
    Please, do this in a siuation where you feel safe and only when the behaviour is ‘playful’ from their point of view!

  3. hollaback! brussels says:

    Hey you two,
    thank you so much for your responses!

    @Jana: Wow, that’s incredible that you actually did that! I sometimes thought: “Well, if they say they’ll call the police, I’ll just tell them to do so, and probably they won’t.” Interestingly enough that in your case, they actually did. I would love to know the end of the story, so please post it here if the police ever gets back to you. If they don’t fine you, hey, then I would just say that every victim of street harassment should block traffick each time when being harassed; probably the whole city would be brought to a standstill in one minute! (… which has a sad side of course, because street harassment happens so often, but it would be a powerful sign!)

    @Hollaback Gent: Sounds like a good idea ;-)! But don’t you think that maybe they will just give you a greasy grin and actually do it? On the other hand, maybe the element of surprise would prevent them from doing so :-).

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