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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weird Bicycling Hazard

I am a recreational bicyclist.  It is great exercise, and the bicyclist is fully exposed to  the environment, enjoying speed, wind, and the scenery.  Riding a bicycle is also risky in our car-centric culture.  Automobile drivers sometimes kill bicyclists and don't even get a ticket!  Here is an article on this reality.  When I get on my bike, I avoid automobiles - I try to stick to bike paths so I won't become a speed bump for an SUV.

On a recent gorgeous autumn Saturday afternoon, I hit the bike path that runs through Evanston's Lake Michigan parks and beaches. It is safe - no cars allowed!  The path continues when it hits Northwestern University, and there is a particularly satisfying stretch along the peninsula that juts out into the lake.  I crossed the bridge to that stretch of path and saw a woman with her back to me; I was biking into the sun.  She was in the middle of the path, so I veered to the right to avoid her.  She suddenly started screaming  at me, and I belatedly realized that she was walking a dog.  The dog was on a retractable leash, and she had allowed the little pooch to wander 30 feet away.  The very thin, impossible to see, retractable leash was stretched across the bike path, and I slammed on my brakes.  I was a bit late, and the leash clotheslined me.  I am glad to report that I was not decapitated or seriously injured - I ended up with a painful thin rope burn where the crazed woman yanked the leash across my neck.  And the little dog was fine.  But the dog's owner was quite interested in loudly displaying her mastery of every profanity in the English language.  Being a competitive sort, I responded in kind.  Since I was bleeding a bit and quite furious, the woman turned and bolted.  I felt like an idiot for cussing at her; that certainly didn't solve anything.  This woman was creating a danger to her dog, herself and others with that damned retractable leash and she should have been educated about it, not yelled at.  I had experienced a weird bicycling hazard I had never thought about before.

I am a long-time dog owner, and I refuse to use the nefarious retractable leash.  They are evil.  They have led to amputations, major cuts, even death for pets and humans.  Here is a link to the  Consumer Reports article on retractable leashes. If you are using a retractable leash, you are not being a responsible pet owner.  It is the lazy person's solution - "I can walk my way, the dog can walk his way and I don't have to wait for him to finish sniffing the tree or try to get him to obey me."  If you don't want to keep your dog under control, and safe, get a goldfish. 

I am now sporting a hairline scar across my throat - it looks like I had thyroid cancer surgery in my past.  I am sure it will fade, but my hatred of the evil retractable leash will not.

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