Life in the Bike Lane
By Tom Frady
Dogs are some of my favorite people. They’re sometimes a real pain, though.
Most of the cyclist/dog interactions go something like this: Dog A, a medium-sized short hair of wildly mixed DNA will bark at us and run along his property line on his side of the fence. Dog B, the goofy, big dog, is more interested in chasing Dog A than us bike riders. Finally, Dog C, a Chihuahua/loofa mix, will eventually leave the porch and join the fray, not really sure what the ruckus is all about, but sure he wants to be part of it, if it doesn’t involve too much exertion. All will end up in a heap when they come to the corner of the fenced property line.
Some other dogs can’t be bothered to chase us and bark from a prone position in the shade.
There is more than one dog out there who will run the entire length of his four-acre property, barking ferociously at us as we pass. Thank goodness he/she is behind a fence. Thank goodness he/she didn’t notice the 12 foot gate across the driveway was open and he/she could have given us a good bite. It’s a fine line between dumb and well-trained.
And, of course, traffic is an issue. A dog focused on a bike rider is not going to see a car coming as he streaks across the road. We have witnessed the sad result.
Cyclists who have to swerve to avoid a dog put themselves in jeopardy from cars, as well. If a group is moving quickly or is tightly packed, one rider can take down others trying to avoid a dog.
Recently, my group of six riders was climbing a hill, out Camp Far West Lake way. Three riders were nearing the top as I was trailing at a respectable distance. I could hear barking and yelling up ahead. As I crested a little rise, I could see three large dogs beside the road, and while they were making their way back on to their own property through a gap in a fence, they barked half-heartedly at me, too.
At the regroup at the top of the hill, I learned the first three had experienced an adrenalin rush. It’s one thing to have a dog the size of a loaf of bread go for your ankles while you ride by, but three shepherd-sized canines with actual teeth . . .
Placer County has a leash law. It’s simple. According to the county website,
“. . . it is illegal for people to allow their dogs to run free in unincorporated areas of the county. Here in Placer County, the ordinance requires that if a dog is off its owner’s premises, the dog must be on a leash or in an adequate enclosure.”
A dog must be both on a leash and under the handler’s control, not one or the other. A dog that causes a bite or scratch on a human must be quarantined, and that’s expensive. Dog owners who let their dogs run free can be cited. Problem dogs that repeatedly bite or injure people can be seized.
Dogs on leashes can lunge at riders, or even break free from their owners. A dog doesn’t have to be aggressive to be a danger to cyclists (and others). Sometimes, a person on a bike looks like a playmate to one of those fun-loving labs.
My friend is riding across the country. Last week, while in Kentucky, he was rushed by 3 dogs. One bit the front tire, one bit his foot, one bit his thigh. He had to use pepper spray to dissuade them from further aggression. This was his 5th dog encounter so far.
The leash law is in place to enhance public safety and to keep your dog safe.