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‘This is normal’ – Woman harasses NorthStar Cycling leader while he is biking to a Hood Canal gravel road

Heading out on your bike for a holiday weekend in search of a quiet gravel road is one of the best ways to get away. But as Edwin Lindo’s experience this weekend shows, racism follows people into the woods. And even when an incident does not end up in violence, the threat alone can dampen even a beautiful sunny ride.

Lindo is a founder of NorthStar Cycling, which was recently featured in Time Magazine as “an example of “How Communities of Color Have Found Strength, Joy and Comfort in a Year Like No Other.” Additionally, Lindo is the Assistant Dean for Social & Health Justice at UW and a founder of Estelita’s Library on Beacon Hill. He posted a video to Twitter Saturday about an encounter he had with a woman who yelled at him for biking on the street in front of her home to access the gravel road. As a result, he had to continue his ride unsure whether she called the police (or some good old boys). But he ends the video by saying, “This is normal. This is how it works.”

Here’s the transcript of his video:

I just gotta record this. I’m out here at Hood Canal, and to get to this gravel road you have to ride through this neighborhood. The map said turn right off the freeway and go up the block, a big hill, to get to the gravel road. And of course, Becky, while she was gardening, decided to get up and scream at me while I’m riding up this hill, barely making it, and say, “Do you live in this neighborhood?” And I stopped and I said, “Excuse me?” And she said, “Do you live in this neighborhood?” “I said,”Why does it matter?” And she said, “Because we pay the property taxes for these streets.” OK. “And you’re not supposed to be riding up and down these streets. This is a private lane.” And I said, “Is there not a gravel road at the end of the lane?” She said, “Yeah.” I said, “OK then, I’m going that way.” “Well you shouldn’t be riding up this street.” I said, “Well, I’m sorry that I’m burdening and messing up your street.” And she said, “No, you’re not doing that, you’re using them.”

There’s a lot to unpack there. I’m a little tired, we’ll unpack it later. I just have to record this while it’s fresh in my mind because I’m so mad right now. Literally every day, what folks have to go through just to get out, just to clear our heads, get some exercise in. Honestly, before I left I told Estell, “I hope nothing happens.” So here we are. I’ll update you, see if the police come. If they do, then that will be another conversation. But I’ll talk to you all soon and we’ll unpack all of this because this is normal. This is how it works.

It’s wrong. It’s unjust. It’s messed up. Thank you to Edwin for sharing this story. It’s yet another way that racism harms people and limits (or attempts to limit) their mobility and freedom. There are so many layers of injustice.

So what can white folks do about this? Well, you can donate to NorthStar Cycling. But if you heard what the woman said to Edwin and thought, “That sounds like something my [uncle, aunt, parent, etc.] would say,” then it’s time to have a conversation with that family member. Obviously, there’s no easy answer to ending systemic and pervasive racism, but it’s not Edwin’s job to go out in the world and confront all this for us. This is a white people problem, and that person who yelled at him is in somebody’s family or church or other social group.

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22 responses to “‘This is normal’ – Woman harasses NorthStar Cycling leader while he is biking to a Hood Canal gravel road”

  1. Peri Hartman

    Certainly, it was unnecessary for Becky to harass Lindo, but technically she may be right.

    She implied that the road is private. Even though someone provided instructions to use the private road to get to a trail, that doesn’t give the public the right to trespass, silly as it may seem. (I’ve certainly ridden and walked on shared private roads from time to time.)

    For this particular case, if people have been using that private road to access the trail for many years, then that may have become legal to do so (I’m not a lawyer).

    In general, when people provide instructions, if it involves crossing private property, it should be noted in the instructions. Then, it’s up to the user to decide how to handle that, which could include asking permission.

    1. Mike B

      Aye if the road is private, it’s private. Instructions/directions frequently don’t include private roads, private gates, or even restrictions on public roads; and part of it is up to the individual to pay attention to signage.

      As an example I was driving many years ago in Eastern Wa, and went into a very rural private development that was a dead end. My car was surrounded by residents and a piece of machinery, then they told me to get out or they’ll call the sheriff for trespassing. Yes it was very scary, and it made me rethink what roads I drive down.

  2. Mike Francisco

    I am not entirely lacking in sympathy for Becky, if her “private lane” is really private (and if she’s paying property taxes to maintain it, then how could it be?) but that seems bogus, or if this road has been used for nefarious purposes (some gravel roads are tweaker hangouts). But where is it, exactly? How would we know? Nobody has the right to try and run off anyone using a public road- and this looks like it could be a USFS or a DNR road. I’ve encountered this attitude before, but have just ignored posted “no trespassing private road” signs if I know they’re BS.

  3. bill

    Becky sounds confused. If she is one of the owners of a private road, her and everyone else’s taxes don’t pay for it, she pays directly to maintain it.

    I too would like to know exactly where this is, so we can figure out if Becky’s lane is private or public. If it’s public, I suggest getting some riders together for a “freedom to navigate” ride on Becky’s lane.

    1. Mike Francisco

      Sign me up.

  4. Denise

    We’ve got some real armchair lawyers here on the question of whether a road is private or not and what that means. In what universe is screaming at a stranger okay?

    Fact is, bikes don’t really impact roads very much, particularly not road bikes, and if your neighborhood has an easement issue, the appropriate reaction is to work with your neighbors to set boundaries around use. She didn’t do that because she perceived this person as someone she could unload her frustration onto – something white people tend to do to regulate the behavior of people of color, whether it’s calling the cops on a birdwatcher or a barbecue, or yelling at a random dude on a bike.

    1. Mike Francisco

      Are you a lawyer? If you are, maybe you can help us out with the property rights issue, should we get some more information. “Screaming at a stranger” is not in evidence. Somebody named Becky is claiming rights she may or may not be entitled to, according to one person’s POV. Not enough for me to get jacked up about, especially when this post says nothing about where this occurred.

  5. Don Brubeck

    Umm, would she harass a white bike rider on a nice road bike? Private road or public road, this kind of harassmant is saying black people do not belong in this space, that black people do not deserve the right of way.

  6. ben wu

    Being white, I once got yelled at for going thru a private lane by another white person. Just because one person is white and the other isn’t doesn’t mean the complaint is racist. Promoting that filter is quite bad for teaching people to listen to each other.
    It sounds like becky should have been nicer, but maybe, just maybe she got tired of the 100s of cyclists going past her garden on her private road and hit the gasket and it has nothing to do with race?

    1. Ballard Biker

      If “100s of cyclists going past her garden on her private road” have become such an issue that entitles her to go ballistic at a fellow human being, who is causing her no harm, then maybe Becky should consider a gate on her private road?

  7. Phil

    I happen to follow Edwin on Strava because I love what he’s doing for cyclists of color. Looking at his Strava for that day, it looks like he was only riding uphill in a neighborhood toward a gravel road on one occasion, on N. Virginia Ave (https://goo.gl/maps/bNvAi3fWNrhPU2yw9). He paused for a couple of minutes in one spot in front of a couple of houses on this road, which may be where the interaction occurred. Per Mason County GIS, N Virginia Ave actually becomes N Mardell Ave pretty early on (google has it mislabeled). At that point, Google Streetview shows a sign for N Mardell Ave that looks like an official county sign (https://goo.gl/maps/3NNTSsdfGBiRQKz76), but just a few yards away is another sign that looks very different and more like a private road sign (https://goo.gl/maps/yXmsWx1fQhiPDzRn8). There are also a couple of (pretty subtle) signs indicating it’s a private road. Lastly, I looked up the plat for that community (can’t link to it) and Mardell Road is described as a private road on that plat.

    So, if that was actually the location where this occurred, it really does seem like this is a private drive, though it is definitely possible that the parcels on Mardell include a public easement of some kind. When this woman said “property taxes” she probably meant something like “HOA dues.”

    All of that said, it is rude as hell to do what this woman did, and I heartily disagree with her approach, even if she (may have) been within her rights to request that he not use the road. I also would easily have missed the signage, or would have assumed I’m causing no harm by riding up the road. I feel for Edwin here. And FWIW, I agree with @Ben Wu that I, a white guy, have also been harassed for very legally using public roads, and in my case it amounted to an animosity toward cyclists and not evident racism.

    Also, this should be a reminder that Strava enables substantial levels of creepiness.

    1. Phil

      Just noticed that there’s another sign that says “No access to public lands.” It seems this is really targeted to hunters, ATVers, etc, and not to solo cyclists quietly riding up the road causing no one any harm, but still. https://goo.gl/maps/F4sw6NFTX7tphTnS9

      1. Mike Francisco

        There is also this “Tweakers and Thieves This is Where You Turn Around” sign. I’m becoming more sympathetic to Becky. I suspect they’ve had problems and this really does not look like access to public lands, state or federal. Moral of the story here is to plan your gravel ride carefully. Not all gravel roads are public. https://www.google.com/maps/@47.4312059,-123.1280813,3a,28.6y,355.36h,83.92t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1suE9C4L7jfJ1k072UhYzgbQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  8. Mike Francisco

    I just looked this up on the Mason County GIS site. Beyond the intersection at Mardell (where the “Tweakers and Thieves” sign is, looks like private property; all of it, including the roadway. Research whose land you’ll be riding on before you decide to just take off on a gravel ride – no matter what color you are. https://gis.co.mason.wa.us/mason/

  9. Joe Z

    Some of these comments completely miss the point. It doesn’t matter if the road was private or public. As a white person who likes explore new places, I have been in this scenario several times and the response has almost always been something like: “Are you lost? Can I help you?” Or even once I can remember someone proactively showing me a hidden shortcut that wasn’t on any maps. White people almost always get the benefit of the doubt in this scenario.

    Another example — once I was running along the beach and the tide came up. I found myself trapped on the wrong side of a gated neighborhood. I went up to some random people and asked how to get out. They GAVE ME THE CODE to the gate. What are the odds that Edwin would have been treated the same way? If this situation happened 100 times, would both Edwin and I receive a friendly greeting the same number of instances?

    1. Mike Francisco

      “I went up to some people and asked how to get out.” Not “I don’t care, I’m going to keep on going” This whole story is lacking in detail and is very one sided. Edwin mentions a map – what map? The details matter. I’m not jumping to the conclusion that it’s because he’s black – though that might have made this Becky extra screamy. But it might be that this neighborhood gets a lot of unwanted guests – tweakers and thieves. What was Edwin’s route? You can’t just go gravel grinding wherever you please, and across private land. As cyclists it is up to us to act responsibly and courteously. What kind of greeting will the next trespassing cyclist receive?

  10. Don Brubeck

    Recommended reading for White people who may be quick to give benefit of the doubt to White people defending their private space from Black people: Stand your Ground; Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas. 2015.

  11. Bruce Nourish

    I’m in the process of looking for apartment on Capitol Hill. A couple of weeks ago, I arranged to meet someone renting out a condo. I got to the building a several minutes early, walked around, scoping it all out. An older woman walked out of the alley side of the building. I ended up on the street side, leaning on a phone pole by the door.

    A few minutes later, the same woman walks up to me and asks me, rather suspiciously, what I’m doing. I tell her I’m waiting for a leasing agent to see a place. After a little more back and forth she seemed convinced that I wasn’t casing the joint, and goes about her walk. She said there had been break-ins in the garage. I was, at all times, on public alleys or sidewalks, and had every legal right to be doing what I was doing.

    Was I a victim of stereotyping, misandry, or some kind of nefarious discrimination against thirty-something white guy tech workers? Obviously not; the suggestion would be laughed at (or more) if I posted that on social media. It was just a mildly awkward encounter with someone who was bothered about something. Stuff like this just happens in the world sometimes. If I had been a black man, and the same things happened, it would not necessarily have made the interaction racist.

    Does racism exist in the world? Do people of certain skin colors get unwarranted scrutiny in some circumstances? Does the legacy of past state-perpetrated racism affect the lives of people born well after those laws were repealed? Yes, yes, and yes. But, this desperate rush to find evidence of racism and misogyny in every bad interaction or outcome in society, and denounce the perps on Twitter, is false and reductive. Moreover, it’s destroying the progressive left: It has replaced actual thought and debate about how we might reform society for the better with a infinite stream of aggrieved tweets and videos, that amount to nothing once the umbrage has passed.

    I’m sorry to hear that this woman was rude to Edwin. He seems like a great guy. The owners of this road should put up a sign or gate to forestall such encounters. It’s unfortunate that the map he was innocently following incorrectly led him over private property — someone should fix that, too. But there’s nothing else to see here. Move along, everybody.

    1. Don Brubeck

      Posting exclusionary signs and building exclusive private roads are some of the structures of racism promoting white supremacy at the expense of black people in the USA. The laws and policies that have prevented or made it extremely difficult for black people to own land and to walk, drive or ride on public and private streets without danger to their persons are pervasive and systemic racist systems. Trayvon Martin was not allowed to just “move along”. Stop pretending.

      1. JB

        So if a Black person has an unpleasant interaction with a White person, that automatically makes it racism? Not buying it. And frankly I think it’s sensationalistic and unprofessional journalism to make that assertion without any supporting evidence.

  12. Gordon

    Ugh, sounds like a really unpleasant experience. We really need a Right To Roam law that would clarify people have access to respectfully travel across the land.

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