Men must learn how to make women feel safe while exercising | Letters

Dr Kathy Dodworth says some men have no idea how intimidating their actions can be. Plus letters from Alison Chubb, David Winter, Frank Paice and Keith Irish

It is unbelievable that Chris Boardman’s words can be so basic and obvious to female athletes and yet still so needed by men (Calling all men: this is what we can do to help women feel safe exercising in the dark, 30 October). Exercising solo, especially at night, is often a different experience for the two. One day last year I was cycling along the (very wide) Forth and Clyde canal; my fitness was great and I had a fine tailwind. I passed a man who had been dawdling, when suddenly he sped up and started slipstreaming me, within a couple of feet. This was in broad daylight, but the canal was empty.

I was worried in case he was somehow angered by me passing him, so I kept going for around 5km, after which my panic was really starting to interfere aerobically. I signalled that I was going to stop as he was so close to me, sat down on a bench and pulled out some food. He stopped too. “Thanks. I needed that,” he said, before asking me about the rest of my cycle. I refused to engage as I was recovering from the shock. A perfect example of how some men have no idea how intimidating their actions can be to women.
Dr Kathy Dodworth
University of Edinburgh

• Thanks to Chris Boardman for his excellent and timely piece. As a recent graduate of the excellent Couch to 5K programme, I had to force myself out of the house for a run at 4pm on Monday rather than 5pm because the clocks had changed. When I commuted, a run after work was out of the question at this time of year.

Given women’s concerns about their safety when training, and Boardman’s recognition of this, and while I do not see myself ever going near a full marathon (in the past I have run a half), I deplore the decision of the directors of the London Marathon to move it back to April next year, which makes it harder for women to train in the evenings. It may not be possible for 2023, but perhaps they might now reconsider that decision in the light of this article by a respected sportsman, and permanently return the London Marathon to early October from 2024 onwards?
Alison Chubb
Charlton, London

• Chris Boardman’s article gave unexpectedly thought-provoking and practical advice – to me at least. I shall cross the path in future to avoid alarming women alone exercising in public at night. I will call out men who comment on them disrespectfully. I was also shocked to read that his daughters walk clutching concealed keys for safety, and his implication that this is normal. As a middle-aged guy with teenage nieces but no daughters, this was depressing, but exactly the spur I need to take his advice.
David Winter
Hove, East Sussex

• Chris Boardman’s steps towards women feeling as safe when exercising in the dark as most men do can of course be readily extended to daylight hours. Our magnificent urban trails in Norwich begin in the heart of the city and sometimes go out into the countryside. They are used by many runners, walkers and cyclists.

Some stretches are lonely and so, even in the light, it’s essential that everyone – including this 73-year-old male cyclist – encourages everyone else by following Boardman’s suggestions. One minor amendment is that if anyone, male or female, calls out “Hello”, as many do, I’m free to respond with a “Hiya!”
Frank Paice
Norwich

• I visited the memorial to Sarah Everard and later had a conversation with my 37-year-old daughter that I’d never had before. My eyes were opened to the harassment, touching and verbal comments from men that she and her friends experience on a daily basis. I was shocked, upset and ashamed that it took 37 years and the death of a young women for me to learn the truth of what Chris Boardman is saying.
Keith Irish
Horndon on the Hill, Essex

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.

Letters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
To make women safer, we need to educate men | Letters
Letters: Janet Cawser, John Airs, Chris Green, Sharon Wall and Moira Hicks on the need for real change, not candles or CCTV, in tackling the dangers that women face every day

Letters

17, Mar, 2021 @6:06 PM

Article image
Calling all men: this is what we can do to help women feel safe exercising in the dark | Chris Boardman
We have to break the cycle of misogyny that makes women feel at risk: This Girl Can’s guide sets out steps you can take, says Chris Boardman of Sport England

Chris Boardman

30, Oct, 2022 @12:06 PM

Article image
Lots of women feel unsafe running in the dark – so we give up something we love | Robyn Vinter
At this time of year I yearn for a society in which we can go outside without fear, says Robyn Vinter, the Guardian’s North of England correspondent

Robyn Vinter

19, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Protecting the rights of women and trans people | Letters
Letters: Gillian Dalley and Dr Jane Hamlin respond to an article by Zoe Williams, and Jacqueline Darby reacts to a piece by Susanna Rustin. Plus Prof Martin Marshall on the ban on conversion therapy

Letters

12, Apr, 2022 @5:12 PM

Article image
Drink-spiking was a worry for Generation X too | Letters
Letters: One reader is angered that so little has changed in the way authorities respond to such incidents, and another suggests some ways of tackling the problem

Letters

25, Oct, 2021 @4:57 PM

Article image
Exercising discretion over lockdown rules
Letters: Allotment holders should be allowed to tend to their plots for short periods, says Christopher Jenkins, while Sarah Munro and Prof Andrew Russell plead for more considerate behaviour during these trying times

Letters

25, Mar, 2020 @7:25 PM

Article image
Women can be incels too | Letters
Letters: Almost every man my age had set age limits for potential female partners at anything from 10 to 30 years younger, writes a reader who sought a new partner after being widowed in her 50s

Letters

30, Apr, 2018 @5:21 PM

Article image
‘Minor cases’ of violence against women can escalate | Letters
Letters: Sarah Everard’s murder shone a light on a societal problem – and on the justice system

Letters

10, Oct, 2021 @4:13 PM

Article image
A lifeline for bored and lonely women | Letters
Letters: Shirley Neish and Janet Mansfield share their memories of the National Women’s Register

Letters

28, Feb, 2020 @5:48 PM

Article image
Who will protect women from police misogyny? | Letters
Letters: Jenny Jones decries police violence against women and new laws against peaceful protest, Caroline Harper calls for a global response, and other readers give their views

Letters

18, Jan, 2023 @5:44 PM