Ottawa woman says she was assaulted for cycling 'too slow'

An Ottawa woman says she was slapped on her behind by another cyclist during her morning commute because she wasn't biking fast enough.

'He slapped my ass with his hand ... He said you have to ride faster'

Marie-Hélène Villeneuve says she was assaulted on Aug. 4 for biking too slowly in downtown Ottawa. More than a month later, Ottawa police charged a Gatineau man who had turned himself in. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

An Ottawa woman says she was assaulted by another cyclist during her morning commute because she was "biking too slow."

Marie-Hélène Villeneuve, 36, filed a police report on Thursday morning alleging a male cyclist hit her around 7:45 a.m. on Lyon Street near Wellington Street. 

He slapped my ass with his hand ... I was in shock.- Marie-Hélène Villeneuve

"He slapped my ass with his hand," Villeneuve told CBC news. "Then he kept cycling. I was in shock. I kind of couldn't comprehend what had just happened."

Villeneuve said she furiously pedaled after the male cyclist and confronted him a few blocks later at a red light on Laurier Avenue West. 

"I yelled at him," said Villeneuve. "I said, 'You cannot hit a woman. You cannot grab a woman's ass, it's completely unacceptable.' He said, 'You have to ride faster, you're riding too slow!'

"It outraged me. It was completely irrelevant, the speed at which I was cycling. No one can touch my body like that."

Villeneuve then pulled out her cellphone and took several photos of the man, who wasn't happy about it before he biked away.

Villeneuve said she later sent the photos to police.

"I started crying," said Villeneuve. "It just kind of all surfaced. I didn't quite understand why I got so emotional so fast. It all surfaced and came out."

Marie-Hélène Villeneuve pulled her cell phone from her backpack when she confronted the cyclist who she says hit her. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'You can't go around slapping people,' police say 

Ottawa police believe the alleged assault is an "isolated case" and encourages any other victims to come forward to report similar incidents. 

"You can't go around slapping people. That's considered an assault," said police spokesman, Const. Marc Soucy.

"If you're going to be touching people in those kinds of matters, you need their consent."

Soucy did say victims shouldn't confront attackers because they could put themselves in danger.

"Take your pictures, report it to police. You don't need to confront the person," said Soucy. "We'll handle that part."

Villeneuve, however, said she wouldn't change her response next time, except she might record a video.

You have to speak out, whether this is happening to you or you are witnessing it happening to another person.- Marie-Hélène Villeneuve

"You have to speak out, whether this is happening to you or you are witnessing it happening to another person. If you don't say anything it continues to happen," she said. "And it should not happen."

Villeneuve added she hopes police find the suspect and lay charges to prevents similar assaults in the future.


Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa who focuses on enterprise journalism for television, radio and digital platforms. She was recognized with the Charles Lynch Award and was a finalist for the Michener Award for her exclusive reporting on the toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. She has also uncovered rampant allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military involving senior leaders. You can reach her confidentially by email: or