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Dog and bike safety

Twin Cities residents are fortunate to have miles and miles of combined biking/walking paths, allowing everyone to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. Cyclists can enjoy the winding lake paths and city views, walkers can take in the green spaces that their dogs also love. Combining the two activities, though, can be hazardous to both parties if certain basic precautions aren’t taken.  Here are some guidelines from someone who enjoys both activities:

To Dog Walkers

  1. Before you hit the combined trail, choose the right equipment:  this means a 4 or 6 foot leash. Avoid using retractable leashes, as they can stretch too far too quickly, allowing your dog to trip a fellow walker or clothesline a cyclist. Since many combined trails abut roads, they may also allow your dog to approach traffic too closely.
  2. Keep your dog close to you, particularly if the trail is busy. Some people dislike dogs, others are downright frightened of them, so don’t allow Rover to approach others unless they invite him. Never let your dog run loose where there are other walkers and cyclists nearby: this is inconsiderate and extremely dangerous!
  3. Anticipate possible lunging behavior. Many dogs (particularly herding breeds) dart after moving objects, and a dog lunging at a bicycle can scare the rider or cause a bad accident. If you notice a bicycle approaching, lead your dog off of the path and ask her to sit. Reward her with treats until the bike passes by. Not only is this more courteous, it reinforces calm behavior around speeding objects.
  4. Thank cyclists who alert you to their presence before passing.
  5. Always pick up after your dog!  

To Cyclists

  1. Always signal your approach, even if the dog and walker are not in your direct pathway. Many walkers don’t hear cyclists coming until they are upon them, and surprises can be dangerous for everyone! A friendly “on your left” or “coming up behind” – or a bike bell – can prevent an accident. In addition, slowing down slightly will give the walker and dog more time to react to your warning.
  2. Give dogs extra space when passing by. Many dogs react fearfully to sudden movement, resulting either in aggressive or panicked behavior (the dog may lunge/snap or back out of its collar). Slowing down and going wide around dogs and walkers can prevent such reactions.
  3. Avoid excessive speed on shared trails.

Obviously, dog and bike safety requires attention and consideration on both sides. Responsible behavior from dog walkers and cyclists alike can help ensure that everyone enjoys a safe and pleasant summer. Have fun!


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