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.