After walking dogs around town for for several years now, I’ve discovered one thing that not only irks me, but scares me as well! Cyclist’s that don’t announce their presence behind me! I’ve nearly been hit numerous times. I remember years ago when all the bicyclist’s were pleading for drivers to please share the road…well, now I’m pleading with them to please share the path. The new rail trail system around town is fabulous for biking, walking, jogging…you’re off the road and out of the exhaust fumes. It’s a quiet, peaceful experience. However, it’s very frightening when a bicycle speeds past you from behind. While walking recently on one of the rail trails there was a family with small children on bikes approaching me. I moved to the right to give them room to pass by me and my dogs and almost into the path of a speeding bicycle coming from behind me. I had no idea he was there. If he had hit me I would have almost certainly been badly injured and there’s a good chance the rider would have been hurt also. A small dog could be hurt or even killed by a speeding bicycle and a large dog could definitely knock a rider off his/her bike. Large dogs with a high chase drive would love nothing more than to chase and take down the rider of a speeding bike. And then who is going to be to blame…the dog…or me, the dog walker!
And why is it that when I’m walking in town on the sidewalks, I have to move off said sidewalk so that bike riders can pass? Aren’t the sidewalks for pedestrians? I always move the dogs into the street so that people approaching can walk past us without being sniffed or jumped on, but I don’t feel that I should have to move off the sidewalk for wheeled vehicles too. I thought bicycles were supposed ride in the street and follow the rules of the road. I always chuckle to myself when cyclists thank me for moving…I’m not moving for them, I ‘m moving for my own safety and the safety and comfort of my dogs.
I walk reactive dogs, my own as well as client’s dogs, which means that they startle and maybe even lunge at passersby, especially if surprised. If I know that a bike or a jogger is coming up behind us, I will warn the dog, focus their attention on me and try to get them far enough away so that they aren’t surprised by the runner or bicycle and are less likely to react. I was yelled at and cursed at by a young woman one evening at dusk while walking a client’s reactive dog. The woman was jogging behind us and I didn’t know she was there. When she got right beside us the dog exploded at her. Scaring her and me both. I apologized up and down to her to no avail. I understand that she was scared out of her wits, but if she had just called out a simple “behind you” as she approached the whole scene could have been avoided. We expect so much from pet dogs in our society. they’re supposed to be polite, gentle, willing to give up their most valued resources, and must never lash out in any way or they risk losing everything, their home, family and maybe even their life. Yet, we do little or nothing to help them succeed. So, if you ride on the rail trail or bike paths, do everyone walking with or without dogs, a huge favor and announce yourself if you’re going to pass someone from behind. Just call out, “behind you” so I can move the dogs away. Keeping them, me and you safe. We’re all out there for the same experience, so let’s all be as courteous as we can…that will make everyone’s walk/ride a lot nicer.