The Startle Factor

By Mark Langton

I was going to write an article about perception vs. reality relating to how different trail users perceive others on the trail: For example, I may be riding my bike at 15 mph, a relatively modest speed, but someone walking might think it’s way too fast. But a recent email sent to us more than illustrates this concept:


I sometimes walk my big dog on fire roads also used by mountain bikers. I try to pay attention as to the whereabouts of the bikers so that I can pull my dog aside, but I’m often distracted. I’ve had a number of near-misses and one bad accident. A biker came around a bend very fast, could clearly see my back and the face of my big dog. I didn’t hear him coming. My dog lunged at him, which slammed me into the ground, and she dragged me as she tried to chase him. I screamed. Did the biker stop, turn around, show concern? No. He kept going.

It seems that many bikers have no idea how to “share the road” with animals. Does COBRA provide education to bikers? Is there a way to communicate to the mountain biking community that you shouldn’t ride toward or near a big dog, especially when the owner doesn’t see you. A dog will think its owner is being attacked and will go into defense mode. That translates into lunging at or jumping on the biker. A safe practice for the biker would be to shout “Bike!” when approaching a big dog walker who doesn’t appear to see him, and give the person a chance to pull in the dog. That keeps everyone safe.

Tracy Sulkin

Here was my response:

Hi Tracy,

Sorry to hear about your incident. It is troubling to hear that the rider did not come to your assistance, and as a human being I am disappointed he did not show more concern.

Yes, CORBA does try to educate riders about situations like the one you describe. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to control or educate everyone, nor can we install common sense and courtesy.

Your experience points out that we all need to be aware of things that could potentially be dangerous out on the trails.


Mark Langton

You may have responded differently, but the bottom line is, different people react differently to different situations, and we all should treat each other with as much respect as we would expect from others.

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