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  1. #1
    eternalvoyage
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    Personal safety while touring

    A posting mentioned on another thread that 'FWIW I've traveled all over the US, Mexico, South America, SE Asia, and Eastern Europe, and have never once felt the need for a gun.'

    What other ways or approaches have people used and found to be effective?

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    Women have to take extra precautions, of course. Here's what I did during a 2-month European tour.

    -- Find a place to camp well before dark. Go do something else and return to set up camp just as the sun is setting. Leave at sunup.
    -- Camp where you can't be seen, well hidden from the road.
    -- Make sure no one sees you entering your campsite.
    -- Or camp at an actual campground or stay at a hostel.
    -- Look confident on the bike.
    -- Always have your money, passport, return plane ticket, and IDs on your person.

    But best of all, as a woman traveling alone, I very often asked people if I could camp in their backyard or their field. In Germany I was received most gratiously. Very often people would insist that I sleep IN their houses. They would give me supper, breakfast, and food for the day! They would introduce me to their family and friends and take me to parties. It was really quite amazing. One family kept me for a whole week and took me on several exercusions.

  3. #3
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I have traveled all over the world by bike and as a backpacker without feeling threatened or scared. My experience has been that most people are friendly and helpful.

    One thing I try to do that may or may not help in this regard is to always seem confident and sure of myself even when I am not feeling that way 100%. My theory [no way to test it really] is that the bad folks are looking for an easy target and as long as you aren't fitting that profile they'll leave you alone.
    safe riding - Vik
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  4. #4
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Niles:
    The only weapon I have taken on bike tours around the world by myself is my positive attitude about people. Strangers have consistently responded to and reinforced this attitude by their kindness and thoughtfulness to a stranger in their midst. In many languages the word for enemy is the same as that for stranger historically. The benign and familiar nature of the bike is non-threatening to most people. The bike is my communication bridge. For example:

    An Ecuadoran Qechua speaking elder offered me the shelter of her thatched mud hut high in the Altiplano during a severe thunder storm with torrential rain. The only phrase common to us was < Venga Aqui! > [Come Here] that she spoke to me as I cycled past in the rain. I waited out the storm drinking tea and sharing bread and photos with what seemed like five generations of her family in that hut. A most memorable shared experience all without words.

    In case you think that I live in some fantasy world that is fact free I offer the following: I am a retired peace officer well versed in guns and weapons for my whole life. Guns only provide the illusion that one controls a situation and hides ones fear behind the gun. On tour I leave my car and my gun at home. It is unnecessary and actually detrimental to the best touring experiences in my opinion.

  5. #5
    Senior Member slowjoe66's Avatar
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    Hey Niles. I have been a silent observer of the last few threads about guns and personal safety and I feel it's time to comment. First of all, I have no problem with handguns. In fact, I am a licensed concealed carry holder in my state, and I've been an avid hiker/backpacker/cyclist for over 15 years. I used to carry a small pistol in the backcountry on backpacking trips, but I never had any use to use a gun (thankfully). Now as my knees are not what they used to be, I do more cycling/touring than hiking. I really just don't think you will find any use for a gun on tour. All the negatives have been posted (the extra weight, the laws between states etc.). Again, nothing against guns, I'm a big supporter of the 2nd Ammendment, but in all honesty, you would be more likely to have a confrontation at your local mall than you will on tour. People for the most part are very curious and gracious.

    My advice is to enjoy your tour and leave the gun at home.
    I don't have a solution but I admire the problem!

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I'd have to say mainly common sense. If you're in an area, you can usually get a feeling whether you can linger a while, or whether you should just keep moving. I've passed up certain campgrounds because of a bad feeling.

    If you can try to be with a group of other cyclists or tourists that helps. When I've had a few days to myself on a cycling tour, I'll pick boat cruises or bus tours or something so that I'm with a whole group of other tourists (usually families etc.) and I sort of hover near a nice looking family, and chat with people, etc.

    When I've been on my own at night on a cycling tour, I will pick hostels rather than camping (my personal preference). I'll get a bed in a female dorm room, and get to know some of the ladies. But also keep to myself and keep out of anything controversial.

    I don't carry much of anything valuable or expensive on a tour. Most of my stuff is pretty inexpensive and very well used. If stolen, it wouldn't get much at resale. Oh yes, I also pack my panniers so that my most "used" and smelly clothes are right on top just in case someone wants to take a peak at what's inside.

    I always try to act like I know exactly where I'm going, and if I feel it is necessary, in conversation I'll mention meeting up with friends a bit later in the day and things like that. I do that cycling locally too when people I meet at gas stations seem just a teensy bit too interested in what I'm doing.

    And around here I carry a small cannister of pepper spray. I wouldn't carry it into any other countries, or even other provinces, because I don't know the legality of it there, but there are a lot of loose farm dogs around here, especially at night, and I figure there's a faint possibility it might come in handy sometime.

    Just stuff like that.


    And I have to say that of all the touring and cycling I've done, I have rarely come across situations where I felt in danger. There have been maybe a handful of such situations that put me on guard, and some that were a little creepy, but nothing came of them. In fact, the most dangerous situations I've been in have occurred a few blocks from where I lived ... not halfway around the world.

  7. #7
    eternalvoyage
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    Thanks to all for the helpful and informative replies.

    (Others most welcomed as well.)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by arctos
    In case you think that I live in some fantasy world that is fact free I offer the following: I am a retired peace officer well versed in guns and weapons for my whole life. Guns only provide the illusion that one controls a situation and hides ones fear behind the gun. On tour I leave my car and my gun at home. It is unnecessary and actually detrimental to the best touring experiences in my opinion.
    Well said!!!

    I cringe when guns and bike touring are mentioned in the same breath. When our cycling friends outside the U.S. read about gun packing Americans, I wonder what they think?

    When I go touring, I meet such nice people, I get warm and fuzzy and it always restores my faith in humanity...Kumbaya!

  9. #9
    "Big old guy"
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    I agree about meeting great people. I have met some wonderful people while riding around on a bike. I think they somehow don't feel threatened and I also think that they really would like to join you.

    As for personal safety I have never felt frightened riding in Canada and the US but I do tend to stay away from large cities. (this might not be a fair comparision because I'm a really big guy).

    On the topic of guns, I think it might be important for those of you in the US to realize just how weird, strange and frightning it is, to most of the rest of the world, to even consider packing a gun. I'm 52 years old and I have never even held a hand gun. I don't mean to be insulting to my US friends, but it is not a common concept.
    The Older I Get, The Better I Was.

  10. #10
    Senior Member MNBikeguy's Avatar
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    When I go touring, I meet such nice people, I get warm and fuzzy and it always restores my faith in humanity...Kumbaya!
    +1
    On a tour last year, I camped at a remote trailer park that had a small tent area. The trailers were falling apart, junk strewn everywhere, and most of the "residents" were wearing ragged clothes, dirty, many had long unkempt beards. I was very uneasy.

    I quickly found everyone there I met to be gracious and kind. They were curious about my trip and wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. We had long conversation around a fire well into the night.
    My initial bigoted reaction made me feel incredibly stupid.
    Sometimes, touring restores my faith in myself.
    "I thought of that while riding my bike."
    - Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

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    On the one hand, if you start out with that list at the top of the page, you can't really carry handguns/weapons through most of the named areas anyway, so why worry about it. On the other hand happy stories of how "I met only nice people" are pretty much worthless. Even heavily traveled warriors, rarely have an opportunity for self-defense. Possibly the greatest name in 20th C handgun self-defense, Jeff Cooper, only used a handgun in self defense (or any other weapon) on 3 occasions. Of those, 2 were in wartime, and I simply can't recall the third, it may have been wartime also. He was literally looking for trouble. The probability of being attacked is pretty low, so the reason to go armed in most civilized places is not primarily the likelihood of being attacked, it's more a way of being in the world.

    For some, self-defense is an absolute, they just can't accept the idea of ever being at the mercy of others. It's not about percentages for people like that, it's something between duty and self- respect. I think that people who operate in many dangerous outdoor sports have a different make-up. It's all percentages, perfect storms, avalanches, holds that break off, caves that flood etc... When things go wrong you can't just shoot your way out of it. Seems like a different mindset.

    In addition to facing trouble frontally with guns, or whatever, one has to keep the tactics flexible. We can be like a commando, to use an antique term. Not looking for trouble, employing the element of surprise, cover of darkness, mobility, camouflage, discretion, etc... In fact if you want to meet Ted Bundy, or Gacy, just go looking for someone who needs help or is offering it. But tactically meeting people and leaving an impression on several people in a community isn't a bad thing either. Being armed is just one of the tactics you can employ.

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    "On the topic of guns, I think it might be important for those of you in the US to realize just how weird, strange and frightning it is, to most of the rest of the world, to even consider packing a gun. I'm 52 years old and I have never even held a hand gun. I don't mean to be insulting to my US friends, but it is not a common concept."

    That is true, in fact imigration can tend to dilute gun rights, since often even if the immigrant comes from a nasty place they are conditioned not to like guns by condiitons of unequal access etc... My dad is from Northern Ireland, and is rabily anti-gun. But ironically NI had a very high proportion of Judicial Permits, what do you do when so many people are on death lists and many are/were in serious danger. Most semi civilized countries exist somewhere on a three point range of reaction: 1) everything is wonderful, no paranoia about their neighbours owning guns. That was the Toronto, Canada I grew up in. I had guns at all the urban schools I went to nobody called SWAT, I once got an award for marksmanship at school from the Lieutenant Governor; 2) we are paranoid about our neighbours, but they are pretty much harmless, kinda like Canada today. Pretty much the only way you are getting a handgun for self-defence is if your neighbours are bears; 3) Your neighbours are dangerous often enough everyone wants a gun.

    "Saturday night just ain't that special
    Freedom to be afraid is all you want
    Yes if you don't want to be next
    You've got a family to protect
    9 out of 10, you've got a friend, you've got a gun."

    Gil Scott Heron

  13. #13
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    IMO, one can't have an opinion on guns unless one has held and/or shot one. It's equatable to a fear of snakes. Almost always a "knee-jerk reaction. Or, like having an opinion on bike touring without ever having ridden a bike.
    Yes I'm a gun owner. No.I don't carry one on Tour.

    Richard

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    I think one of the safety advantages of bike touring is that we don't quite fit into societal concepts of what you can do on a bike. A lot of people just don't get it, and that makes you somewhat invisible to them. Or local. Also, you're likely fit, and they are likely not. The main danger point remains "them" in their cars (malicious or not), and you ridng that crumbling white line.



    Guns on bikes discussions can be so charmingly egocentric. Aren't they always about protecting me, me, me?

    But, even gun-carriers who are well-trained to distinguish true threats make tragic mistakes. The five year old pointing the toy gun. The guy offering a wrench. The mentally disturbed, but harmless. And that's not counting accidents.

    Before you pack, ask yourself, who am I to decide who should live and die? What training do I have to know who means harm and who does not?

    Maybe the gun would save your life, or even someone else's. There are mean people in the world. Maybe it would kill you, by accident or in someone else's hands. Maybe it would kill someone else, by accident or in your hands.

    It seems a lot more productive to speculate on whether there is a 35 foot Coachmen's Aurora Full-Wall Slide-Out Recreational Vehicle with your name on the front right bumper.

    Bang, bang.
    Last edited by Krink; 05-12-07 at 01:07 PM.
    They told me to wear more lycra, and I said "no, no, no."

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    Quote Originally Posted by jens5
    IMO, one can't have an opinion on guns unless one has held and/or shot one.
    Richard
    And/or is at risk of being shot by one.
    They told me to wear more lycra, and I said "no, no, no."

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    Quote Originally Posted by jens5
    IMO, one can't have an opinion on guns unless one has held and/or shot one. It's equatable to a fear of snakes. Almost always a "knee-jerk reaction. Or, like having an opinion on bike touring without ever having ridden a bike.
    Yes I'm a gun owner. No.I don't carry one on Tour.

    Richard
    Hmmm...I've never had an abortion, but I can have an opinion on it...(ducks and runs for cover)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niles H.
    A posting mentioned on another thread that 'FWIW I've traveled all over the US, Mexico, South America, SE Asia, and Eastern Europe, and have never once felt the need for a gun.'

    What other ways or approaches have people used and found to be effective?
    I ran into a 64 year old retired WOMAN touring across the USA last summer by HERSELF! I asked her what she did for personal protection and she said for humans none; but for animals she had pepper spray, though that could be used on a human but a lot of times it doesn't work well. And she also said she never once felt threatened by anyone; and she stayed in public parks, campgrounds, school and church yards, farmers fields, truck stops, motels etc.

    And she also said the same thing that many of you said, most people were extremily friendly and kind to her, inviting her to stay at their places giving her either a spot on the lawn or a bed in the house along with meals and showers in exchange for nothing more then telling them of her adventure thus far.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    The only place I've felt in need of protection is in my home city of Manchester. I would think twice about touring in certain areas, and would think about protection if I were to tour those areas, but more than likely it would be a pepper spray/course in martial arts type type prep.

    About the only time I'd feel the desire to carry a gun with me would be if I was camping in bear/moose territory. How effective a handgun would be, I don;t know. I come from the UK, and except for some criminals, guns aren;t a big part of the scene.

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    "who am I to decide who should live and die?"

    As you have probably heard, the conventional answer to that question is that when shooting for self-defense you are not trying to kill. What you are entitled to do is stop the life threatening behaviour, etc... Shooting as a means of doing that is never legitimately a mater of deciding whether the aggressor deserves to die. Of course, if shot, the aggressor may die, but that is beside the point. The victim's responsibility is to assess the personal danger they are in, and to choose the least escalating way of stopping the attack.

    A firearm that shot a weak cartridge with poisoned bullets, the kind of thing that would not be able to stop an attack, but would very likely kill the aggressor at a latter time, that might well not be a legal response to the attack. In some jurisdictions, knives are treated that way. It is perceived that they are extremely lethal but not good for self defense. Whether that is correct or not, one can see the wheels tuning. Weak pistols may fall into the same category though I doubt anyone has been charged on that basis

    Typically the victim is the expert because the law may be written so that the key issues are whether the victim perceived themselves to be in danger, and used the most sensible non-escalating means to stop the attack. What is called for is the victim's judgment relative to the situation, not the individual. Whether or not cliffs are a well meaning natural feature or not, could probably be argued at length by philosophers. Whether or not one has currently fallen from one is well within individual expertise.

    Handguns are pretty reasonable tools for killing/hunting either bears or moose. For larger bears, or moose, a handgun is not powerful enough to be a stopping gun. It's more than worth the try, but if you are attacked, handguns are marginal in effect compared to rifles for stopping large and motivated animals.

  20. #20
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Why would anyone need to kill a moose while camping?? First of all, if it is not moose season, you'd be going to jail for a very long time for hunting out of season. Secondly, you'd be killing the moose without a hunting licence which would land you in jail. Thirdly, I could be wrong, but I don't think handguns are considered hunting equipment. And fourthly, moose aren't dangerous!

    Bears, on the other hand, if you can prove that one was attacking, might be a different story.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Why would anyone need to kill a moose while camping?? First of all, if it is not moose season, you'd be going to jail for a very long time for hunting out of season. Secondly, you'd be killing the moose without a hunting licence which would land you in jail. Thirdly, I could be wrong, but I don't think handguns are considered hunting equipment. And fourthly, moose aren't dangerous!

    Bears, on the other hand, if you can prove that one was attacking, might be a different story.
    Wasn't there a news story about a herd of moose that raided a small Alaskin town on a killing rampage eating all the town folk? The news story read: "The Moose Who Came to Dine".

    Err...maybe that was a Japanese horror flick.

  22. #22
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by froze
    Wasn't there a news story about a herd of moose that raided a small Alaskin town on a killing rampage eating all the town folk? The news story read: "The Moose Who Came to Dine".

    Err...maybe that was a Japanese horror flick.


    Ummmmm .... yeah.


    Oh, but wait ..... a moose did kill someone near where I live a couple months ago. It came right in the front window of the vehicle ... when the vehicle hit it ... and squashed the driver.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka


    Ummmmm .... yeah.


    Oh, but wait ..... a moose did kill someone near where I live a couple months ago. It came right in the front window of the vehicle ... when the vehicle hit it ... and squashed the driver.
    I read about that in a newspaper report here in Fort Wayne; the weird thing about the report was that it showed the picture of the car with a completly smashed out windshield, and reported that the moose survived but gave no details about the driver or their condition!!! The news reporter was more concerned over the well being of the moose and didn't care at all about the person driving. Your report of it was the first I heard that the person died!!!!!!!

  24. #24
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    My friend in Jasper is a more affraid of moose than bears. He's been charged by moose more often than by bears.

    Some personnal safety tips:

    - Get a rear view mirror
    - Be careful with high speed wobble
    - Watch for soft shoulders (or dirt roads)
    - Learn what to do in bear country and apply
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  25. #25
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    Gotta laugh about attack moose, but in some areas wolves may be a problem? I carry pepper-spray all the time on the bike. 1 bad dog bite will do that to you. Next Tuesday I depart Pittsburgh Pa for Washington D.C. Amtrack brings me home. I am looking forward to it but with a little apprehension. Thanks for all the pointers, all of you. Machka, I like the idea of packing dirty smelly clothes on top.
    Park your car, pedal to work.

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