Salt Lake City, UT. It is perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. Step outside your house and you are fully surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains. Majestic is the only word that comes to mind.
The city planners spared no expense either. All the streets are tree lined. Though at times annoying, construction projects are often to keep the streets in excellent repair. Just the right amount of traffic lights to keep everything moving at an almost perfect pace.
In the last decade, bike lanes have been added to most major streets that run through the vast expanse of downtown SLC. More recently, the city has adapted the idea of city bikes, easy rentals that can be used and returned for a small fee by the hour or the day. Needless to say, during favorable weather, there are a lot of people out and around on bikes. Good for the environment, great for the health, its truly a win/win.
Enter my dilemma.
I take in all this metropolitan grandeur whilst walking my two dogs, Frankie and Mickey. They were both rescues from the shelter. Frankie found his way here from California. Mickey is a bit of a mystery. Regardless, nothing makes them more happy than going for walks.
Nothing, except perhaps lunging at bikes.
Right here, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell are you dogs doing so near the street?” to which I could only reply, EXACTLY! Allow a bit of explanation.
My dogs aren’t near traffic. Traffic, in the form of a large portion of the anti-vehicular crowd, is one my sidewalk. Why? Any guess would be better than what I’ve been able to come up with. Why are people riding bikes on the sidewalk when a perfectly groomed bike lane is just 10 feet opposite on the street? Why are people cycling in my walking space after Salt Lake City Police put the fear of God in to every motorist that held a grudge regarding sharing the road with cyclists? Why? I’m absolutely lost for answers.
Now lets add more to the equation. Bikes and pedestrians sharing a narrow strip of concrete is precarious at best, especially if a cyclist comes up on you from behind without announcing themselves. Bikes, pedestrians and dogs? Someone is bound to get hurt.
Frankie is a little twitchy. He’s young. He thinks he is the canine equivalent of Jason Bourne. If something moves, he is watching it, calculating an opportunity to subdue. If he sees a bike coming towards us, I pull him off to the side (which I shouldn’t have to do) so that he doesn’t lunge at the bike as it approaches. When they come up silently from behind, I have no time to prepare and all bets are off.
To this day, no one has been Frankie’d off their bike, though not from lack of trying. Frankie isn’t a bad dog or even a poorly trained one. He is a dog. A dog with dog like instincts and reflexes. Mickey is the same. Though a bit less forward than Frankie, anything his brother does excites him immensely. That makes it two dogs versus one bike. And then there is me.
I did most of my growing up in San Antonio, TX and Riverside, CA. In either city, you learn a whole vocabulary set aside just for people that upset you in moving situations like that. While I’ve gone to great lengths to be less reactive, I have developed my own brand of sidewalk rage. When these situations occur, I try to keep it to a loud, but effective, “Hey! Excuse us!”. Often, that does the trick. On good days though, someone will stop and engage.
I don’t have a dog lane. I don’t have a pedestrian lane (which most of us would just simply refer to as a sidewalk) set up just for my use. I don’t have people giving me a wide berth to insure I’m not spooked and reacting in a way that could endanger someone. I don’t get laws protecting me if someone should make even the slightest contact due to negligence or misjudging distance. You do. It’s in the bike lane. I helped pay for it so I feel I have every right to demand that you get your healthy ass off the sidewalk and out on the street where it belongs. This is our spot and you are the invader.
That’s the gist of how the conversation goes down. Though yet unused, I do maintain a bit of a trump card that, if provoked, I will brandish without hesitation. Besides exercise, I’m taking my dogs out so they can relieve themselves and one of those forms is more solid than the other. I’m required to pick it up and I am a good citizen.
So here is my standing threat to all cyclist that try to share the sidewalk instead of the road-I will bring the situation to your attention. If needed, I’ll conversationally stir it up a bit. Rest assured, however, if diplomacy should fail us, I have a sack of bad intentions crafted by the very dogs I’m walking and I will not hesitate to hurl it at you, the same way you hurl yourselves at us.
You’ve been warned.