Our Stories: DOG GONE IT! What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About Cycling

Getting hit by a car was one thing. For starters, I felt like I could claim membership to that group of hardcore, veteran, city cyclists who ride-on in spite of motorist madness – just to get their bike on. It was different trying to explain why my bike needed repairs after getting run down by a couple of dogs. A car is one thing, but dogs?

As I watched Stage One of the Tour de France, where an off-leash dog attacked the entire pelaton (def.: main group of cyclists in a race) and wiped out some of the major contenders, I realized I was NOT alone.


Stage One Tour de France : Dog Takes Out The Pack

Read more about it . . . Stage 1 Dog Incident Article

Perhaps it was just me and that one dumb dog? But no, in fact there have been numerous accidents on the Tour de France caused by dogs. Apparently the paw extended as MAN’s best friend doesn’t apply to cyclists.


Note the crushed wheel . . . and the unscathed dog.


Signs lining the multi-use path in Marin where I was struck by dogs alone include . . .



And Elsewhere . . .



Alas, but what? The owners with their dogs off leashes can’t claim to be blind – blind people need their dogs on leashes! Perhaps dog owners without bike riding experience don’t understand the severity of a dog-on-bike collision. 

Kindly pass this on to any dog owner you know. They may have no idea.

Even though Tour de France riders are professionals with “falling experience” common accidents include fractured collar bones, broken or dislocated limbs, along with yards of bloody road rash – injuries all within the realm of possibility in any bike crash. While riders on the tour have access to immediate medical attention, an ambulance costs upwards of two thousand dollars with emergency medical care ranging in the thousands as well. If the accident was caused by your dog, your legal obligation may exceed a ticket and fine. An egregiously injured cyclist could sue you for negligence for not retaining control of your dog – especially if the sign was right there.

Another thing unbeknownst to dog owners is the ridiculous amount of money road cyclists will spend on their precious steeds. The cost of Lance’s Armsrtong’s Trek bike is $8714.99 – roughly the price of this used 2008 Chevy Cobalt. Unless your dog has excellent personal liability insurance, you could be looking at some hefty repair or replacement costs if your pooch is responsible for crashing a bike. The cost of the time honored dog accessory, the leash, is $12.77.

Even if you can live guilt-free for causing grievous bodily harm and scoff at the destruction of personal property . . . how will you explain yourself to your dependent, unprotected pet when they get run over by a bike? You gave your dog some freedom and now it walks around on three legs. “Thanks man!”

So, until your dog SPEAKS to me in English I will not believe they understand your verbal commands well enough to protect us both. Would you take a cab if the cabbie didn’t speak your language? Exactly. Cyclists have thrown everything from water bottles to bike pumps at attacking dogs. Bicycling Magazine suggests yelling “Get off the couch!”, a unanimously familiar command that when used totally out of context will baffle the dog and stop it in it’s tracks.

Not all animals are necessarily out to get us. Some believe they are just like us cyclists. The following clip shows just how far a horse will go when he identifies with a stampede of cyclists on the Tour de France.

Animals are clearly fascinated with something about our spinning wheels the world over. They may come at us because they want in on the action. But until they build bicycles for dogs we’d prefer pet owners to have them admire us from a distance. PLEASE keep your dog on a leash! 

Tips & Tricks: Damage Control and Revenge of the Tiny Neon Cyclist

There’s no perfectly safe way to ride a bicycle. Even when you’re done contending with the obvious cars, pedestrians and fellow cyclists, there’s nothing like trolley tracks to derail you or an unleashed dogs to throw you off, literally. (Canine hit and runs are not an uncommon occurrence according to Bicycling‘s Bob Mionske. So, whoof!) You can only do so much you can do to protect yourself but if you’re looking for an extra coat of armor here are suggestions from San Francisco’s Tiny Neon Cyclist.

The Amber Daytime Running Light by Dinotte 

Colliding with a car changes everything and begs the question: why didn’t they see me? In case of a next time, the most obvious protection seems like shining a bright light at less attentive drivers. The problem with regular bike headlights, no matter how bright (or thousands of lumens), is that white light is imperceptible in sunlight. This amber colored light by Dinotte is the same shade as a turn signal or Road Work light, making it visible in the daytime.

See for yourself:

The settings include low, medium, high and several different strobes. (The strobe’s additional benefit is that in can be used to modulate tourists crossing the pedestrian side of the Golden Gate Bridge, who move out of your way because they think your a bike cop.) Rechargeable AA’s and a battery charger purchased separately at stores like Radio Shack make this an economical, eco-friendly choice as well. With two interchangeable sets of battery packs this light will last on a high setting even on long rides.

For those of you with fears of getting hit from behind, the buzz surrounding Dinnote 140R Taillight is getting attention on bike forums worldwide from owners who swear by it for daytime and nighttime use, in spite of the hefty price tag (129.00 USD). Just how bright is it? The following video is pretty compelling.

Why No One Looks Hot in Neon Yellow and Why Everyone Is Wearing It 

Neon colored clothing hasn’t been fashionable since 1980-what (which is coincidentally the only other time I wore spandex), so the trend of fluorescent yellow cycling jackets wasn’t an automatic choice. What were these cyclists in neon yellow thinking? That cars could see them and fashion be damned.

It is absolutely impossible to blend in neon yellow. Whether in the bright sunlight on an ocean highway, in the dark shade of a woodsy trail, even among the colorful traffic in the city streets, you just can’t miss the neon yellow cyclist. These “high visibility” jackets come with sleek styling and flattering fits from makers like Pearl Izumi and Sugoi for both men and women.

Truthfully, any kind of colorful clothing makes you more visible to motorists on any given day and is useful on any part of your body.

Ultimately no matter how luminous and bright you look you can’t account for people not paying attention. That’s why cars regularly collide with each other. You have right to fear because of the difference between you and a  four thousand pound metal fortress crushing against your bare fragile body. Cycling while preoccupied by fear is not only unpleasant its distraction is dangerous. A solid set of bike handling skills can promote confidence and prepare you for anything on the road.

Why You’re Never Too Cool For School 

No one is above a little basic bike skills training, not only for conquering the unknown but for breaking bad habits we’ve picked up like colds from other cyclists. Lori Lee Lown, founder of the Velo Girls, and her team teach a series of bike workshops, geared towards women but open to men, that focus on everything from beginners ‘Individual Bike Handling Skills’ to more advanced ‘Racing Skills and Tactics’.

(Photos courtesy of velogirls.com) 

Alternately for members of REI, free basic bike clinics are offered to members during spring and summer months. There is certainly other coaching available through other cycling clubs and bike shops throughout the country. Ask the store where you bought your bike or Google a search for “bike classes” in your town. There’s much to be learned from publications like Bicycling Magazine and VeloNews which offer tips, articles and product recommendations to keep new and experienced cyclists at the forefront of the sport with advise from experts and professional cyclists.



Confidence is key. If finding bike couture in Day-Glo or attaching a “warning light” to your bike brings brings your calm to a level where you can enjoy the ride that may be the armory you need. “Whatever helps you sleep at night” becomes “Whatever helps you bike all day” to the cyclist, whether it’s protective gear or an extra water bottle: the goal is to ride on and ride strong. In avoiding accidents experts and experienced cyclists agree on the importance of making eye contact with drivers to make sure they’re paying attention and to humanize you beyond another road obstacle. Sometimes being bright makes no difference to the inattentive driver on the phone or enthusiastic dog. Cycling clothes are frequently made to look sleek in black, but what’s the good if you’re better looking if you can’t be seen.

My “revenge” as the Tiny Neon Cyclist was against my fear of cars, trolley tracks and dogs that brought about my unceremonious “involuntary dismounts” but which created a new and improved Tiny Neon Cyclist, riding with a very, very brightly lit confidence.