Guest editorial: Injured bicyclist says dog owners shoulder responsibility in off-leash areas
May 3, 2018
Last Sunday was a day I'd been looking forward to all winter. This was the beginning of my Park City riding season, but it ended up being the end of my entire year of riding.
The plan was to ride 2+ hours in Round Valley, work on my fitness a bit, and most importantly, enjoy the beautiful scenery and warm sunny day.
A few minutes into my ride on the west side of the Ability Center, I came upon two women on mountain bikes being proudly led by a well behaved black lab, all of whom had the same vision of the day as me. Enjoy the sunshine and have some fun.
After a brief and friendly chat I passed the three heading toward my unwanted destiny. After cresting a short uphill I began the descent towards the small pond and creek that runs parallel to the service road.
Without warning, I saw a dog sprinting in my direction while the owner frantically screamed over and over for the dog to stop (but he wasn't interested). I thought he would simply try to sample a portion of my right calf, which I could avoid, but I was mistaken.
The wirehaired terrier ran directly in front of my 29-inch mountain bike wheel! I hit him somewhere in the midsection and went over the handlebars. I lay in a stupor on the ground. After taking an inventory of my body parts I stood up and realized my left ankle was swelling and very sore.
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As my head began to clear anger set in. I verbally lashed out at the owner, for which I later apologized, and told her she should have had her dog on a leash. She immediately and emphatically, and with no apparent compassion, informed me this was an open-leash area. She was correct.
But that does not absolve her of the responsibility of keeping her dog under control. I find it hard to believe based on the owner's behavior while I was trying to recover, that I am the first person this dog has had an encounter with. Who's next? Another cyclist, a runner, or maybe a child riding their bike? With ownership comes responsibility to keep your dog in proper control at all times.
I'm all for open-leash areas. As a former dog owner, I know dogs love to do what they do, and that's chase after things. But as an owner, you must monitor situations that may cause your dog to react adversely and place others in danger. It's the owner's responsibility to keep their animal under control, whether it's open-leash or not.
I had spine fusion surgery almost 2 years ago and I have worked very hard to get just a small portion of my prior fitness back. It's been a struggle, to be honest with you. And now, as a result of my encounter with an out-of-control unleashed dog, I have a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in my heel. I underwent surgery the day after the crash and had a plate and screws installed. I will not be able to bear weight on my left leg for six weeks and then I'm faced with limited weight bearing for another six weeks. After that, more Physical Therapy. I'm looking at a 3-6 month sentence.
My hopes of starting the 10th Annual Park City Point-2-Point mountain bike race on Labor Day are gone. And now I'm again a burden on my family. And all because my rights as a human are given less weight than those of an out-of-control dog.