Holding Space

“Yo, you got a hot ass!”
~9 year old biker

Yesterday a cyclist was crossing over the bridge into Station North on Guilford Ave when some black youths formed a line in order to block her. She sped up in order to pass through them and one of them landed a sucker punch to her head, but she was able to maintain balance and continue onwards. This hasn’t been the first time that youths in this area have disturbed cyclists. Back in January a cyclist was fatally stabbed by teenagers on Greenmount Ave, which is a major dividing street between the central district of Baltimore and the east district. 

Today, one of the cyclists who organizes the Thursday Night Indeterminately Named Baltimore Social Bike Rides posted on the Unofficial Bikemore Facebook Page about congregating across the bridge where the cyclist was attacked. I ended up joining for a bit in order to occupy the space. It seemed that our presence brought about several events. First, some younger black youth on bicycles congregated around us asking to eat some of the pizza, drink our beers, and pop wheelies in the middle of the street. I smiled and helped some of them pump the air in their tire tubes, and every now and then they would harass one of the female riders or yell something rude to us.

"About 30 minutes ago I was riding south on Guilford and was just passing the Copy Cat when I saw about 6 teenagers starting to walk across the road just before I was about to cross the bridge to Mt. Royal. They tried to block me but I rode through them, but not before one got a good punch to my head. He got my ear but didn't managed to knock me off my bike. I'm glad I didn't hesitate when I saw them and just kept riding, or I'm sure it would have been much worse. I lost my temper and yelled at them as I rode away, which was replied to with an aggressive sexual threat. I made it home and some pedestrians made sure I got into my apartment okay. I called the cops and they came and filed a report. Be careful out there everyone!"
~An Attacked Baltimore Cyclist

As I sat there in silence and smiled, I remember one of the youth, a 9-year old yell at me, “What the hell you looking’ at?! Do you wanna fight?!” I just laughed and told him that he would probably win at a fight. I stoically observed the scene of the kids doing wheelies around the street and yelling at cars that wanted to pass by, and exclaiming to the female cyclists that they had hot asses and asking them whom they would give blowjobs. 

The corner of Guilford Ave and E Oliver St.

The corner of Guilford Ave and E Oliver St.

Fortunately, the cyclists that did pass through were unharmed this evening. In the past, a string of attacks against cyclists usually continues for a few days and then dies down. Just sitting down and seeing the youth made me think. It made me think about all the social issues and layers in a city like Baltimore and the disparate neighborhoods that lead to bands of black youth wandering into other neighborhoods to attack cyclists for what seems like no reason. It makes me think about how both sides tend to demonize the other. How can you fix a problem that is both systematic and endemic with root causes that aren’t easily addressed?

Attacks like these just make more people want to stay off the streets, make cyclists from more privileged neighborhoods fear groups of black youth, and encourage a groupthink mentality that scares people. But nights like tonight give me hope. I met a woman named Lina who has lived on E Lafayette Ave and Barclay St for 12 years and told me how she and her husband have taken time to talk to the black youth who loiter around her street corner. She interacts with them, talks to them, and communicates with them. In return, both parties get to know each other and give each other a bit more respect. They are both part of the Greenmount West Community Association, dedicated to revitalizing and empowering the residential neighborhood in the heart of the arts district.

Tonight, respect was paid and space was held for those who ride.