Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cycling Is For The Dogs

Yesterday morning, shortly after I started my ride to work, I was chased, quite persistently, by a dog. The owner of the dog was frantically yelling for the dog to stop, but to no avail. Eventually it tired of chasing me and turned around. This was the second time in two trips that I was chased by a dog. This time the dog was relatively small but I have been bitten before by small dogs and I know they have no consideration of their size when confronting someone who is much bigger.

I learned this when I was a teenager and was helping my friend deliver newspapers. A small dog guarded the sidewalk at the edge of one of the houses on my list. I decided to very forcefully walk to the house like I owned the place, assuming I would intimidate the little dog into retreating. Instead, he attacked, biting me in the leg.

Of course, this does not mean I live in fear of little dogs, quite the contrary. I like dogs and I know that the best way to avoid an attack is to stay calm. In another instance when I was younger, a friend and I were walking on a trail behind some houses when two Dobermans spotted us and started barking and running towards us. I had a great pet dog at the time which happened to be a Doberman so I knew what to do. I told my friend to stay calm and show no fear. I was fairly certain this would work but I never tested it before. Sure enough, the dogs barked and growled until the moment they reached us and then just started smelling us. By this time, the owner was yelling at his dogs to come back.

I have been chased by several dogs while riding. I encountered two more dogs on the trip to work yesterday morning. The second dog was big, possibly a Great Dane, Running loose on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. The owner was far behind and apparently oblivious to the leash laws, like so many other dog owners. Fortunately this dog was more interested in running free than he was of me.  The last dog of the morning was interested in me and gave chase for a while before giving up.

Each time I am chased I just keep riding like nothing is happening. I am not an expert but I think the dog’s goal it to chase away threats. Attack is what they do when their first strategy fails.

On the way home from work I was chased by another dog. I started thinking, “What the hell is wrong with people?” Why are there so many people who think the leash laws don’t apply to them? I understand dogs like to run free, and I think they should, but only in appropriate surroundings, like a dog park or rural area. Are people not aware that if their dog bites someone, the county could take their dog and put it down? I would not want to risk that. I also wouldn’t want to risk the well-being of another person. No matter how well-behaved a dog is around its master, it will behave differently around a stranger.

I know the odds of a cyclist being bit by a dog are very low. For now I will just keep doing what I am doing and hope the odds don’t catch up to me.

About five minutes after the dog chased me on the way home, I was still thinking about all the things I mentioned above when I saw an animal running towards me from my right. It was dark at that point and even though I was close to merging with the busiest road in the area, this road was somewhat rural and not well lit.

My first thought was, “Great, another dog is coming to chase me down.” I watched it run onto the street right in front of me, but instead of coming after me, it continued across the street and squeezed under the guard rail. It was a bobcat.

Oh, the things you see while riding a bicycle.

Bobcat path

Google map view of where I was when bobcat crossed my path

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Change of Scenery

The other day I decided to take a different route to work. I was looking for a change of scenery and found a way to work that seemed safe and added a mile and a half to my ten-mile trip. Since I actually wanted to ride a little further this seemed like killing two birds with one stone.

The new route was easier. I got on the road near my home and stayed on it for at least half the trip. It was a busy road but it went through a newer part of town so it was well planned with bicycle lanes the entire trip. It was also good because it allowed me to keep a faster pace than usual. I actually spent part of the ride passing cars that were stuck in traffic. Since I didn’t have so many turns and stops, I made it to work in one hour and five minutes, just about my usual time on the shorter ride.

Unfortunately, it seems with every silver lining there is a dark cloud. I assume Florida is not home to every idiot driver in North America but it sure has more than its share. I talked about bicycle lanes in another post, Riding on Sidewalks. In that post I mentioned almost getting hit by the mirror of a passing truck. This time I had a car drift into the bike lane and barely miss me. That forced me over to the far right of the lane where a pickup truck,  two vehicles later, also drifted into the bike lane. I guess I was lucky the first car forced me over. It also seemed that every large vehicle, such as buses, would come uncomfortably close when passing me.

If anyone is curious, I recorded that trip and a few others using mapmyride.com. They have a nice feature that uses Google Earth to show a “Flyover” of the route. I tried to embed the video code directly into this page but for some reason it did not work. Some of my maps are private because they go directly to my home so if one does not work, try another. If you sign up, feel free to send me a friend request.

I decided to stick with my older route for now and rode home from work that way. If I want a change of pace I will have to go riding on the weekends, but that is time reserved for my wife. We bought her a bike a few months ago but it was too hot for her then. After that, her seat hurt so I bought her a comfy seat but then her wrists hurt from leaning forward on the ride. I few weeks ago I looked at another recumbent bike that I would really like to have but can’t afford it now. Rose said that perhaps after Christmas I could get a new recumbent and she could have my current one. Then she would ride with me. No comment!

In other news, on the way home on my ride mentioned above, my chain fell off while changing gears. It was dark at that time and even though the street I was on had lights, it was still difficult to see. I put the chain back on and then got back on the road but when I tried shifting to a higher front gear, the shifter broke apart and I was stuck in the lowest gear. I had to finish the last three or four miles of my trip in that gear.

I ordered a new shifter, that I think is correct, and it should arrive tomorrow or Wednesday. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to install it. In the mean time it looks like I will be driving to work.