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New controversy surrounding dog bicycle leashes

In September 2009, San Jose’s Mercury News reported the death of a walker on the Los Alamitos Creek Trail who fell and hit her head when she became entangled in the leash of a passing dog, tethered to a bicyclist. Now San Jose is considering whether dogs tethered to bicycles should be prevented from sharing paths with other users, or whether dogs should be allowed to be tethered to bicycles at all. Another element of the discussion is the victim’s concern, shared with others before the accident, that some small dogs tethered to bikes are being dragged rather than exercised by their owners.

I’ll be interested to see how San Jose decides to act. Banning dog tethers for bicycles doesn’t seem like the right solution. Dogs that require a lot of exercise, like the Siberian Huskies involved in the San Jose accident, must benefit from the workout a bike ride can give them. Small dogs require extra care and attention from their biking companions. In an earlier post, I described PetEgo’s new Walky Dog Low Rider bike tether, designed for shorter, smaller dogs, and urged riders to keep in mind that small dogs may need to be chauffeured for part of the ride. Riders must keep track of their dog’s condition and make sure that their dog is properly hydrated and trotting or running comfortably.

Rules about sharing trails with bicycles and tethered dogs would make sense. A bicycle with a dog tethered to it occupies a lot of space, since the tether pole stands out sideways from the bicycle. Separate trails for bikers, with or without dogs, would prevent the kind of accident that happened in San Jose; alternatively, bikers with dogs could be given access to trails at stated times. In the meantime, and in the absence of rules, common sense should tell a bicyclist operating that kind of set-up that he or she is putting a lot of pressure on trail traffic. Be considerate and choose less-trafficked areas and less-popular times to exercise yourself and your dog.

4 comments

  • Edie

    A neighbor had an accident when his own dog’s leash entangled with his bicycle. He was holding a long leash in his hand while riding; the dog ran in front of him as he was rolling downhill. Stitches to his face were required.

  • Hi, Edie! That DOES sound like a recipe for disaster. I can only imagine bike riding with a dog working with a bike tether, which holds the dog’s (short) leash at a distance from the bikes’ wheels. The problem then, of course, is that the whole package (bike plus tether plus dog) is very wide — perhaps wider than the bike rider may realize at first — which puts a lot of pressure on other people trying to use a path.

  • Also pulled by a tether

    I was just in the emergency room for a similar event. I was walking on a fireroad/trail when from behind me, a bicyclist with a dog tethered on a LONG leash came up behind me at a pretty good clip. The cyclist did not let go of the leash. The tension and speed pulled my feet from under me, causing me to split open my upper forearm — with a gash that required 7 stitches, a goose egg to my head and a sprained left wrist. The force also pulled the cyclist off his bicycle causing him to get pulled back and his glasses to be temporarily lost. I had a mild concussion. Very glad it was not worse, but would have been even happier had it never happened.

    If people MUST ride this way, they should do so with their dogs close to their bikes. If the dog corrals a person, PLEASE drop your leash!

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