“Creeper/harasser on a bike on Memorial Bridge”

Photo by PoPville flickr user L. Shanley

“Dear PoPville,

I want people to be aware of what I experienced Friday so they can keep an eye out. Around 6:15 – 6:30 I was jogging northbound on the Mt. Vernon trail along the Potomac near Memorial Bridge. An Hispanic/maybe Middle Eastern man, medium skinned with trimmed black hair, stubbly facial hair, 40’s, about 5’6,” with black pants and a burgundy sweater/windbreaker with a black messenger bag that said something like “Community Health,” with an accent, rode past me slowly on a bike, leering. He turned 3 times after he passed me to stare before finally going on. Creepy, but he was moving away from me, and I told myself he must have been looking at something else. I moved on and turned near Arlington Cemetery to cross Memorial Bridge eastbound into DC when creeper guy disappeared along the trail going north toward Rosslyn.

About 15 minutes later, I was eastbound across the bridge still on the Arlington side, when I noticed the shadow of a cyclist approaching me from behind on my left. It was creeper guy. He made a reach for me as he passed (I pulled away so no contact) and then said some cat-callish thing as he slowed and turned on his bike to cut me off. I realized this man must have doubled back to follow me, that he had targeted me, and suddenly I was very scared. I tried to get away while shouting at him repeatedly to get the fuck away, and even threw some water from my bottle at him in hopes of getting him to back off. He yelled back, called me a fucking bitch, and started to get off his bike. Thankfully, two walkers stepped in (very brave, they literally stepped between me and him). Creeper guy took off on his bike across the bridge eastbound toward DC.

After he left I worried that he would still follow me, even back to my home, so I ran directly to the US Park Police station nearby, looking over my shoulder the whole way. I will give some “props to the cops” because they took me seriously, arranged for me to get home and be sure I wasn’t followed, and went out looking for the guy.

I have jogged daily for 15 years, and while I have had stares and catcalls and men taking pictures of me and men exposing themselves (ugh), I’ve never been threatened like this. I am scared to go back on the Mt. Vernon Trail or Memorial Bridge, areas I thought of before as safe and scenic, for fear of seeing this guy again.”

17 Comment

  • This sounds like the bicycle groper in Petworth that somebody posted about not long ago — the description, the doubling back, etc.

  • That’s really scary. I’m sorry that happened to you, and I’m glad you are okay. I generally think of that as a safer place to run, so, ugh. As for watching out for this particular creep, can you clarify whether it was 6:15 – 6:30 a.m. or p.m.?

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you and I’m sure it was really scary. I’m glad there were other people around to step in as it doesn’t sound like this guy was willing to give up.

  • My wife carries runner’s mace. You can strap it to your wrist with an elastic band. Don’t hesitate to use it if you feel threatened.

    • I don’t know how runner’s mace works, but other spray devices are notorious either for being used against the victim (if they are crazed, they can/will grab the mace and spray you) or spraying so imprecisely that the victim also gets choked in a cloud of mace. So, just something to keep in mind if you chose this form of self defense.

      • Generally speaking everyone is going to get a little love from a mace spray, but ideally the target gets the brunt of it and you can run away. Having been sprayed for training once, I can say it is extremely crippling but can take 10 seconds or so to really take full effect.

    • Just remember to register your mace if you carry it in DC.


  • I’m the OP – It was on Friday evening. The sun had come out for a second so I was able to see his shadow coming behind me and pull away.

    I appreciate that comments here on PoPville are supportive. Talking to my friends/family after the incident, several seem to think that I “provoked” this guy by yelling and throwing my water and the implication is that if he assaulted/raped/killed me, it would have been my fault at that point. That line of thinking implies that there’s something else I could have done to magically make him go away, which he clearly would not do. It’s true that I didn’t know what he was capable of or what he intended to do, but he’d put me in a situation I couldn’t ignore or run away from.

    I appreciate the advice for mace – probably a good idea.

    • “Talking to my friends/family after the incident, several seem to think that I ‘provoked’ this guy by yelling and throwing my water and the implication is that if he assaulted/raped/killed me, it would have been my fault at that point.”
      Ugh. While throwing water at him might not have been the best thing to do, you were acting purely on instinct and adrenaline at that point. And this scenario wasn’t that of a normal person who was acting just fine before you threw water at him — he was a weirdo who was trying to grope you.

      • You should never feel embarrassed or self conscious about removing yourself from danger. I’m a pretty clean cut dude and sometimes women will cross the street when they’re coming towards me in unsettling conditions, later at night and nobody around. I am never offended, and if I am it is not your problem. I know this doesn’t exactly pertain to your situation, but if someone is making you uncomfotable you should do what you need to do to get safe. Especially if the guy gets offended, then you KNOW it was the right thing to do.
        Would a whistle be a good carry along instead of mace?

        • Ugh, I wish more men thought like you do (and maybe they do). Some of my male friends “complain” that women will start to act uneasy around them when they walk near women at night (i.e. trying to pass them on the sidewalk). “Why are you women so paranoid?? I’m not going to do anything”.

          Oh, to walk a mile in our shoes… (pun sort of intended).

    • Ugh. I’m so sorry. I HATE that your friends and family said that to you. You felt threatened and did what you felt you had to do in the moment. Nothing he did or could have potentially done to you would have been your fault. Just try to remember that when people are being less than supportive.

    • This is my first (and possibly last) time to comment, as lurking is more my style but –

      This is not your fault. You didn’t overreact. You are not crazy. You did nothing wrong.

      I am so sorry this happened to you and am sending you all the internet hugs.

      • Thanks so much for the support everyone. I’m glad that so many empathetic people read this blog and are willing to offer kind words and practical advice :). I know this is most likely an isolated incident. I plan to keep jogging around the city, while taking a hard look at mace and other options, and hoping for the best. Thank you —

  • I’m terribly sorry that you had to put up with this, and want to say you reacted in an entirely appropriate manner. Thank you for sharing and I hope the rest of us have the presence of mind you showed, and the forthrightness and support the walkers showed.

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