In light of a recent report of a woman being assaulted and harassed along the Schuylkill Banks Trail, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation is urging anyone who has a similar experience on the trail to contact the police immediately. They have also called for increased police presence on the trail.
The Bicycle Coalition supports these calls for more police presence on the trail on Schuylkill Banks and Kelly Drive, especially in light of similar allegations we’ve received as of late.
The most recent incident was first reported by Green Philly Blog, then re-reported by mainstream media sources in Philadelphia. As Julie Hancher at Green Philly Blog wrote on September 17,
One private Facebook group has discussed several incidences. One woman’s bike was stolen while she was riding on the SRT, as she rode a few hundred yards behind her boyfriend. On August 2nd, August 9th & August 17th, a group of teenage boys shoved women off their bikes (at least one theft in this incident) and/OR assaulted them.
Last evening, a woman posted in the Run215 Facebook group that a female runner was surrounded by a group of teenage males on bikes, even as people were running, riding and walking AROUND the group. Luckily the witness stopped and the assailants left. The victim said they group had been verbally and sexually harassing her.
Recurring themes in these instances include a handful of teenage boys, often blocking off the trail (either by one end of the SRT by an intersection or end). The assailants either have bikes or may be without.
In response to the report, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation contacted the 9th Police District, who agreed to increase police presence on the trail. They also put up a “How to Report Incidents on Schuylkill Banks” page and links on their website to three members of that particular police force for citizens to contact.
When I spoke to Zoe Axelrod at the SRDC this morning, she reiterated that people need to call the police as soon as these incidents occur. She also noted that after calling the 9th District Police District earlier this week, the SRDC has noticed increased police presence on the trail.
We will reiterate the SRDC’s calls: If something happens to you, or if you see something happening on the trail, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.
While the increased awareness of these sorts of incidents is getting attention, it is not new. Earlier this summer, after similar reports of harassment on the trail, members of the Bicycle Coalition met with officers in the 9th District to talk about these incidents specifically.
The meeting happened after a member of a private Facebook group shared her story and found that she was not the only one being harassed while riding her bicycle.
“One other girl, just a week before my incident, had the same thing happen to her on the SRT,” she wrote in an email to us at the time. “Two other bikers have communicated on Facebook that teenagers have tried pushing them off bikes, but fortunately for them, they didn’t lose their balance. Another girl, a runner, was approaching a group of 4 teens doing wheelies, when one of them knocked her over.”
Like now, the 9th Police District said they would do more to make sure incidents like these no longer occur. We are nervously optimistic that, perhaps this time, increased police presence on the trail will not be temporary. In the meantime, remember: Call the police immediately as an incident takes place on the trail, or anywhere.