Dear dog owners of the world: do you recognize the dogs in the picture above? No? Well, if you let your dogs roam free off of your property, those are your dogs.
Those two dogs have chased me numerous times, as well as many cyclist friends of mine. They’ve tried to bite my tires. They succeeded in biting the tires of at least one other rider I know of.
Another dog that the owners let run loose ran under my wheels about a year ago, causing a nasty crash that would have been much worse if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet. Or if the accident had pushed me into the other side of the road, into oncoming traffic.
If you don’t keep your dogs on your property, those dogs in the picture are your dogs, because you’re doing the exact same thing.
All My Fault
In both cases, when I approached the dogs’ owners, they quickly started yelling at me, as if I was at fault by, you know, riding in the road. Cyclists are used to this—we often get treated as the guilty party.
The woman whose dog caused my crash scolded me, telling me that I must have been speeding terribly, and that just imagine what would have happened if her toddler son had been in the road (never mind all the issues with that statement) and I’d hit him. How dare I be so reckless?
I used to argue with these people, but that of course did no good (does it ever?). So I thought of the strategy I’ll use next time. I’ll ask the woman who was worried about her son getting hit by some rogue cyclist flying down the road at 60 mph the following question: what if it was your son on that bike instead of me?
Turning the Tables
What if little Johnny or Janie is riding their bike in the street or down the road, being careful, and some dog that an owner was too lazy or inconsiderate to keep in their yard ran into the road and attacked your child? Or ran under the bike tires, causing a crash?
What if you came upon your child, bleeding in the road, with broken bones and a face that looked like raw hamburger? Would you then start screaming at your child, asking them what in the world were they doing riding in the road? Would you tell them it was all their fault that they were injured?
“How dare you be riding in the road like that, Janie! Stop crying! I don’t care how much your head hurts!”
“But ma, I didn’t do nothing wrong! I was just on my bike in the road!”
“You should know you don’t belong on the road on a bike! Of all the nerve! Stop crying, so help me… Do you hear me?”
“What did I do? The dog ran into the road! It bit me! Look at my leg!”
“That’s enough! You brought this on yourself! OK, I guess I’ll call the ambulance now, but as soon as you can walk again, we’re going to talk about this! And don’t you dare pass out!”
Who You Gonna Blame?
Somehow, I can’t imagine this dialogue playing out in the real world. But it’s what at least some of the dog owners out there believe—it’s the cyclist’s fault when a dog causes an accident.
So I ask you again, dog owner who lets their pet run amok and into the road: whose fault is it? Janie’s? Johnny’s? Mine?
If you wouldn’t blame your own child—or brother or sister or husband or wife or mother or father—for the accident when a dog causes them to crash, then you know what to do next.
(Please feel free to pass this along to any dog owners you know who may benefit from this.)