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How can we all play a part in making the Bristol and Bath Railway Path a place for everyone?

How can we all play a part in making the Bristol and Bath Railway Path a place for everyone?

By James Cleeton, Sustrans South 

In January 2019 I wrote a blog where I considered the cycling gender gap of two men cycling to every woman, and how men could help close the gap by changing their or our cycling behaviour. But it is clear that there is more to it than that.

I live by the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. My wife and I chose to live there specifically so that we could use it. In fact while looking for a new home, my wife would run along the path and turn off at the junctions she came across to hunt for houses for sale. That is how we found our home.

Over the last 14 years the path has become part of our lives and we use it to commute, to walk the dog, to enjoy nature and to exercise. It is while my wife has been running that she experienced what can only be described as harassment. Cat calls, comments about her appearance, her running style and plain just being shouted at to get out of the way. Each incidence has been unsettling for her but they were always considered on their own. I hadn’t thought that what my wife was experiencing is just the tip of the iceberg and that harassment like this is a common and daily occurrence on the path.

There are sections that can be quite foreboding especially at certain times of the day or night. That sense that the path is unusable at those times is compounded by the actions of some who feel it is o.k to make comments. So harassment is another behaviour that is dissuading women from using the path and therefore reinforcing the gender gap in this public space.

By joining with The Bristol Street Harassment Project for International Anti-Street Harassment Week we are highlighting this issue, stating that any kind of harassment is inexcusable and calling on people who are subject to or witness harassment to challenge the individual and/or to report it. We can all play a part in making the Bristol and Bath Path a place for everyone.

One Path Initiative encourages people to Share, Respect and Enjoy the path. Pilot Launch May 2016 Beth Harding Sustrans, Public cyclist with child bike trailer

What can you do?

We are encouraging all users of the path to be active bystanders and step in and support anyone who might be experiencing harassment as well as challenging this behaviour.

Use The Bristol Street Harassment Project toolkit on responding safely to street harassment for information and advice for bystanders.

You can also log any incidents you experience or witness anonymously at  https://bristolstreetharassmentproject.ushahidi.io/views/map to help us build a picture of the problem and develop solutions.

During International Anti-Street Harassment Week you can also get involved by:

  • Looking out for the stencils on the path and tweeting your photos to us at @BristolZT and @SustransSW using hashtag #EndSHbristol
  • Take part in the international Tweetathon on Tuesday 9th April using hashtag #EndSH and add your photos and comments

You could also organise a ‘Chalk Walk’ and add your own slogans to the path such as:

  • Zero Tolerance to street harassment
  • I reclaim the street
  • “I was harassed here. I reclaim this space!”
  • “I love my community. I want to feel safe”
  • Catcalling is harassment
  • It’s not a compliment. It’s street harassment
  • “My body is not public property”
  • Stop telling women to smile

Find out more at – https://www.facebook.com/BristolStreetHarassmentProject/


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