Sunday, March 27, 2011

I was riding my bike today on the Bay Trail off Zone Way. There was a lull in the deluge of the past few days, so instead of walking the Lake I decided to pull out the bike, check the tires and go for a short ride. Sunny skies and vacant streets--it was a perfect day for a ride. Down at the bay trail the shorebirds were enjoying the low tide feast--I rode towards Alameda and then turned around and rode the opposite way making the circumference past the MLK Shoreline Center and observatory before checking my watch and deciding I needed to head home, so I could get ready to go to San Francisco for the Women of Calypso event at the African American Art and Culture Complex.

I was cruising along the path, mindful of the fallen tree branch blocking the sidewalk I'd seen earlier and saw ahead of me another cyclist. I was all ready to give him the customary greeting those of us on bikes generally give to one another when he said something derogatory to me as I passed him headed down toward Coliseum Way on 66th Avenue.

I was going to warn him about the blocked sidewalk--like "be careful. . . ." But after his filthy comment, I was happy he was headed in the opposite direction and didn't think anything else about him, until I looked over my right shoulder and there he was next to me.

He'd turned around and was following me asking me personal questions and propositioning me. I told him his attention was not appreciated and to get lost. He kept riding tandem and so I got into the street and as soon as I could safely do so, crossed to the other side, as he circled away across the street.

The cyclist kept riding ahead across from me and circling back as we reached San Leandro Street where he crossed over to where I was, to continue the sexual harassment.

I stopped at the 76 Service Station to tell him to get lost, to stop bothering me, and that I wanted him to ride in front and away from me. As I was saying this he fondled me and then tried several more times. I blocked his hand with my right hand and then reach in my pocket and tell him I am going to call the police.

He watches me dial the number, first one --my friend who is a martial arts expert and then then another, my daughter, before taking off.

He probably knew the OPD wouldn't come too quickly if there was no blood, and when I rode down the street to get help from the BART police officer, Officer Narcisse, who called but they never showed up.

All I remembered of the cyclist was that he had an accent, was over 40 and had on a blue helmet and he was scavenging for game paraphernalia like horns--we were next to the Oakland Coliseum. By the time I was ready to leave, the BART policeman's supervisor suggested he either follow me home or give me a ride. My bike wouldn't fit into his trunk so he followed me home. I thought that was really nice of him. That was my fear, that this pervert might find out where I lived.

Tonight, the police were ready to come to take the report--attempted rape, but I told the officer on the phone that was okay. I didn't need an officer to come by. I wanted to alert them of the assault so they would be aware of the incident. I got another incident number. I already had a case number from earlier today.

For a moment, I think I thought I was in Africa, not Oakland, when I picked up my phone to call someone for help. I would do this all the time in Senegal and Mali, even Gambia, when I was lost or had a problem. All I had to do is call one of my friends then give the phone to the person I was having an issue with and the issue would be resolved right away.

I wouldn't have given my phone to the drunk(?) Mexican, but the knowledge that I did have someone I could call who could be there shortly is not the reality in Oakland. I never saw police in Senegal or Mali, not like I see them here.

There was no need for police because the people took care of each other. We need the police here, often there is no one else.

I am wondering now about going for a bike ride . . . I need to get a stun gun or pepper spray. It's really messed up that I can't go for a ride anymore with the same sense of abandon and ease that I felt this morning when I started out ever again.

The assailant asked me if I rode on Sundays often, so does this mean he will be looking for me?


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