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When growing up my brother and I where taught that, when it's night, you should offer girls/women to ride along when you are on bike or on foot to prevent unsafe situations. This wasn't saying that women aren't able to stand up for themselves but that there are some creeps out there. If you're not alone you are not as an easy target for sexual assualt, robbery etc. My parents told us this because we grew up in a somewhat rural area where a >7km bike ride is normal to get home. My brother and I often got home late from parties because a female friend lived far away and had to cycle there in the dark. We are raised on the idea that if something happens and you didn't offer to ride along you are partially to blame.

The example above is from when we were teenagers. Now, somewhat older (25), I have trouble applying the message from my parents that is hardwired into my brain. I recently started a job at a company where most of my colleagues are the same age. The location of the firm is at the outskirts of the city and we sometimes work evening shifts until late in the evening. I notice that some female colleagues have to ride home in the dark alone and I would like to offer to ride along for safety purposes. However, I'm afraid this comes of as either a romantic advance (I'm in a relationship so not my intent) or something condescending ("Do you think I can't take care of myself?"). I don't have to ride to their home since we mostly live in the same city and the populated areas are fine. I'm talking about the dark and desolate area between the company and the centre of the city. So my question comes down to this I think: "How do I offer to ride along with a women for the sole purpose of everyone being safe without implying alternative motives?" Workplace relations can be a slippery slope so I don't want to send the wrong message.

Some extra information:

  • Not to many people my age own a car. In my country we have more bikes than people so it's the preferred method of transportation
  • Most of my co-workers and I started the job in the same training group so we all know each other a bit and are on friendly terms
  • I'm only offering. No is no.
  • We recently had a national uproar when a woman my age went on a bike ride and never returned. She was later found raped and murdered. This only solidified my beliefs.
  • It should be a disclaimer that I want to offer this for the safety of others but also for my own conscience.
  • How much do you know about their routes? How much do they overlap with yours? Are you planning on going several miles out of your way with them? – Acccumulation Mar 9 '18 at 21:47
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    I'd leave gender out of the discussion completely. Men are also more likely to get robbed or attacked when alone. – bta Mar 9 '18 at 23:11
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    Likewise to what @bta said, women are not necessarily more at risk. Anyone, male or female, is susceptible to being robbed or assaulted. If a person is willing to pull a knife on someone just to steal their wallet then they don't really care who their victim is, they'll just see a chance and take it. Ask yourself would you be willing to make the same offer to a male colleage? – Pharap Mar 10 '18 at 4:57
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    @bta I bring up gender because it was the specific lesson I was taught and, while both parties can be mugged, women are more likely to be a victim of sexual assault also. I can't back that last point up with hard evidence however. I based that on the amount of news coverage on assault and the male/female ratio of victims you hear about – Iarwain Mar 10 '18 at 17:15
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    Don’t make it personal. Put up a notice saying it’s safer to ride in a group and suggest that others in your company become a peloton. You could also bring it up in a staff meeting, for instance, indicating that you’re willing to organize such a peloton. – IconDaemon Mar 11 '18 at 0:27
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There's no harm in offering at least once.

If she straight up says no, or is condescending, then you can presume she's not interested and you have no need to ask her any further. If she doesn't give any reason for why she has declined your offer, you can simply inquire as to why - without being too forceful.

If she informs you that it's because she would feel uncomfortable doing so, then you can simply acknowledge that, and perhaps work on building up a stronger friendship with her (fostering more trust), before asking a second time when she perhaps feels safer or more comfortable around you. In addition, after they say "no" you can simply say "Okay, well have a safe ride home!" or something along those lines that imply that you want them to remain safe after work today.

If she accepts, then that's awesome, but you need to be careful about what you do either her after she accepts. Try not to be too "friendly" or too suggestive that you may be after a relationship with her. This typically means no trading numbers, or arranging dates (however you can arrange to take her home on a regular basis). In addition, when you drop her off, you can end the conversation by saying "Stay safe", implying that you were caring more about her safety (rather than just spending time with her).

Finally, if things do go the way you don't want them to, and she appears to be trying to get romantically involved with you, you can either confront her about the issue directly, or you can simply stop offering her lifts; implying that you don't want a relationship with her without actually saying it.

You shouldn't need to worry about tip-toeing about trying to be nice to others, hopefully your colleagues know you well enough to realize that you have no ulterior motives, and that you simply want to help - and if they still do not want to have a lift with you then you shouldn't feel bad about it. There are plenty of reasons.

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    Accepted because it handles all possible outcomes of asking the question. I also like mentioning safety since that is the main goal ("Okay, well have a safe ride home!", "Stay safe") – Iarwain Mar 17 '18 at 13:38
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I'd make it about myself. You could say:

Wait up! May I ride along? I feel safer when I don't have to ride alone in these creepy outskirts.

When you use this method you cannot discriminate between genders, because your stated intent is to create a safer commute for yourself.

If it is allowed to ride side by side I don't think it will be awkward. It could awkward if you'd ride behind her.

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    I think this is probably the best answer - making it about them would come across as condescending to a lot of people. And ideally it would also be true - while women may be at greater risk, if one's worried about the safety of a woman riding alone, but not a man, there's probably something wrong with your sense of safety. It should be noted that if one always just asks women, and never men, this will probably lead to an awkward situation at some point. – NotThatGuy Mar 10 '18 at 12:06
  • I think this is a good answer, but you don't even have to say that you don't want to ride alone because of safety. I would also just prefer to ride together with someone because you have someone to talk to. – josephine Mar 11 '18 at 19:17
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    @NotThatGuy This also runs into problems when people are aware of where you live in relation to the person you're offering to escort home. You can expect things like "Why? You live on the opposite side of town!". I think in the end the better answer, especially considering the Dutch culture, is to be honest about your reasons for offering. – Cronax Mar 13 '18 at 15:57
7

Say something like "Hey, it's dark, I'm not very sure if the roads are safe, do you want me to ride along ? I wouldn't mind". She would either say yes or no. If she says no, you can just say "Ok, stay safe, let me know if you ever need help".

If she says yes, you can ride along. But as soon as she reaches her house, say "Bye, good night" and go back on your way. No lingering looks, no small talk, nothing that suggests that you have anything but her safety on your mind. Once you know her better, you can even let her know that this is what you were used to since childhood so you wouldn't mind helping her out in future.

2

Make the offer, and make your intention clear. You can say something like

I don't mean anything romantic by it, just don't like the idea of you walking/riding home alone this late.

Don't push, but leave the offer open:

If you ever do want me to ride with you, I'm here.

I'm sure even if a woman decides she doesn't need help, she'd be appreciative of the offer.

Finally, make sure you're not only making the offer to one woman - that would send the wrong message. As long as you're making the same offer to every woman in the office, I think it's quite clear that you're just being nice.

You can also talk to the other men about doing the same thing. No reason why all the responsibility should fall on you. When I was at school, we also walked home from parties, and returned home quite late. We'd leave in groups walking in the same general direction, and just walk everyone home. The last one in a group would be a guy, but two girls could peel off into their neighbourhood - since there's two of them, they're not alone. Because it was a group of friends, there was nothing romantic about the situation, just friendly, and it made us all a more tightly knit class.

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    fwiw Im not sure on the specific wording of "I don't mean anything romantic by it, just don't like the idea of you walking/riding home alone this late." This may be interpreted to imply that the woman should take OP's opinion on her actions into account, which is more forward than OP may desire. The interactions are probably happening in Dutch, though, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – spiral succulent Mar 9 '18 at 19:33
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    "I don't mean anything romantic by it, just don't like the idea of you walking/riding home alone this late." That's quite awful. I'd say "If you feel unsafe walking home alone this late, I don't mind joining you". – gnasher729 Mar 9 '18 at 21:22
  • There's no reason why other women can't offer safety to others. If the idea is that there is safety in numbers, then why not suggest (as Accumulation suggested), that a program or at least send out a memo on night safety? – doctordonna Mar 9 '18 at 22:34
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    @doctordonna Interesting. We appear to have some cultural difference here. I'm a girl, I did three years of military service (so I'm really not afraid to walk home alone). When a guy offers to walk me home "because it's dark", I find it charming, gentlemanly, and most of all - the fact that someone worries about me makes me warm inside. I would decline the offer, since there's really no need, but it wouldn't change how I feel about it. A "program" on the other hand, would feel impersonal, unnecessary, and "somebody feels the need to systematise protecting me, like I can't take care of myself". – Galastel Mar 9 '18 at 22:57
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    @Galastel Chivalry is indeed appreciated. I don't see why the program/notice on safety should be gendered. I'm trying to broaden the view that while this question is about offering women safety, violence is not strictly gendered. You were in the military, would you not offer another man or woman company home if they were feeling unsafe? – doctordonna Mar 10 '18 at 1:58
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Although statistically it may be unsafer for women, assuming that it is so in a group with a small number of people is not as accurate (and I think it could be considered impolite). I think it is best to offer a ride to multiple people (even more than one person is better) for general group safety. Those who need it will probably accept the offer, especially because if you offer to every it's clear that there are no discreet intentions.

1

If you already know where they live, you might suggest forming a convoy, caravan, or some other term for group to travel to a specific location. The idea being that that location would be close enough to people's homes that they could travel the remainder of the distance on brightly lit roads.

Another option is to suggest getting a bite to eat at some location in a more brightly lit section of town. Both of these suggestions are intended to be general offers. So make them to the women and men. A woman who might hesitate to take an offer from a man may feel much more comfortable in a mixed group. In general, this is not about you; it's about your coworkers' safety.

If someone stays late to work with you, you can make the offer directly to that person. Apologize for keeping them late and suggest that you wouldn't mind sharing the dark roads. Tell her that you'd feel more comfortable seeing that she got safely into her home. That may come off as old fashioned, but unless she's particularly independent shouldn't be offensive.

I don't know that it's appropriate to talk about rapists at work. But it wouldn't hurt to mention robbers and falls. E.g. "if we go in a group and someone falls, someone else can call for help if needed."

If you're really concerned about rapists, you might collect some literature and give it to your human resources department. You can suggest to them that they send out a quiet warning proposing a buddy system. Then you can reference that in your offer of escort. By giving the literature to HR and letting them disseminate it, you come off as less of a creeper. Works best if you can explain why you are concerned, e.g. reference the national uproar. Or perhaps a more recent event. Ideally you want to come off as proactive, not paranoid.

If you're not sure who to call, you might check the phone book. I know that in the United States, there are rape crisis centers in most metropolitan areas. If you can't find the Dutch equivalent, you might ask the police. Such places can generally make suggestions for practical steps people (mostly women) can take to avoid assaults. That literature is what I'd send HR.

0

Write up a poster talking about how many places have programs where people who don't want to go home alone can arrange to have someone go with them, and you'd be willing to coordinate such a program at your workplace, and that anyone who is interested can contact you. Put it up someplace you think everyone will see it. If you're there's no place that everyone will see, you can put it up in the most visible place, then ask people whether they've seen it. This will then not be directed at any specific person, and no one will have to directly reject the offer.

0

Not a 100% interpersonal answer, but this is an easy way to bring the subject.

First, if you ride your bicycle at night, you should really install a good headlight like a Philips saferide, either the dynamo or battery powered version. Add a red blinkie at the rear. You can buy other brands of course. I use a Philips that I modified for extra lumens. It's about as bright as a car headlight.

Once you have a proper light, you will notice that other cyclists who ride at night and are too cheap to buy proper lights will tend to either follow you or ride by your side, because they actually like being able to see in front of them.

Then, after your colleagues notice... well, having a proper light gives you a non-patronizing and non-creepy reason to suggest riding together. If you're lucky, they will request it, and you won't have to actually say anything. The idea is that you provide value to them.

To be honest, if you colleagues ride a bicycle at night without lights, they're at a much higher risk of a collision with a car, or sticking the front wheel into a pothole and flying over the bars, than meeting a thief or a rapist. If you're concerned about their safety, think about buying enough of these $2 red blinkies for everyone.

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    While a valid bike safety point, not sure this really answers the question, which is "how does OP offer help" not "what are real night biking safety concerns" – spiral succulent Mar 10 '18 at 0:44
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    You don't have to offer help only with words, you can do it by creating safe riding conditions. – peufeu Mar 10 '18 at 0:52
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    In the Netherlands we need to have bike lights on our bike by law and most people do have them. It's not the issue in this question. Else the gender of the person wouldn't matter. – josephine Mar 11 '18 at 19:15
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When you find yourself in the situation, ask "Would you prefer not to alone?", or "Want to ride together?". If they answer no, tell them "Ok, if you ever feel uncomfortable riding home alone, I'm happy to ride together". It sounds like you're sensitive enough that it's unlikely anyone will take this wrong way.

If you're worried about it, you can explain your motivations, but I don't think it's necessary. It's entirely possible for someone to misinterpret your intent, but that's always possible. If you just say "ok" and don't make a big deal out of a negative answer, the misinterpretation will likely self-correct very quickly.

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