When chased by an attacking dog, most people are afraid of being bitten. But the greatest danger to a cyclist, by far, is that the dog will cause a crash. Though painful and unpleasant, dog bites are rarely serious, even if they require a trip to the emergency room. Dog-bike crashes, on the other hand, frequently cause injuries that are very serious indeed.
An unfortunate example is the cyclist who suffered a serious head injury during this year’s Bike Virginia. As also reported by the Bristol Herald Courier, local cyclists cite dogs as their greatest hazard.
In our bike club of about 120 members, at least 8 riders have been taken down by dogs in the last 5 years. None were actually bitten. But 4 were seriously injured — 2 with a broken pelvis and multiple other injuries, one with a broken collarbone that required surgery, and one needed several rounds of reconstructive dental surgery over a span of 2 years. All were out of work for periods of weeks to months.
If this isn’t serious, I don’t know what is.
Other bike clubs in rural areas probably have similar experience. This is a public safety issue that law enforcement should be taking seriously. People are being hurt, in significant numbers.
To me, being injured in a dog-induced crash is no different than actually being mauled. So it should be treated the same way under the law. VBF encourages the use of Virginia’s dangerous dog registry to control problem dogs that chase cyclists; and to restrict dog owners who allow their dogs to injure people.
VBF is working on an information campaign for cyclists, for law enforcement, and for dog owners. In the meantime, if you are involved in a dog-bike crash:
- Call the police or sheriff’s dept. immediately, and insist that they press charges. Most Virginia municipalities do have some kind of law that prohibits loose dogs (leash law).
- Discuss the dangerous dog registry with the police or sheriff’s dept., and the animal control officer. They may not know it, but the dangerous dog law can be applied if a person is injured by a dog in any way, not limited to bites.
- Know that any conviction for a leash law violation and use of the dangerous dog registry will help you get compensated for your medical expenses, and property damage to your bike and clothing — from the dog owner’s insurance company, or in civil or small claims court.