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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred learns about man's best friend.

Hey Frank! How's it goin'? Where are you biking to now?

Hi, Fred. Oh, I'm just riding to the library.

Boy, you ride your bike all over the place. Aren't you ever afraid something'll happen?

Something like an accident? No, Fred, I'm not afraid at all. Bicycling is very safe. Per hour, it's actually safer than riding in a car! And if you do it correctly it's even safer yet.

But I mean, there could be something you couldn't help, you know? Like, even walkin' down this sidewalk now - I could trip or something.

Fred, the key is to pay attention and be prepared for problems before they happen. It's like a chess game - you try to figure out what's coming next, and make sure you know how to react.

OK, but say a dog comes out and bites you. You can't do anything about that!

Hmm. Well, dogs can occasionally be a problem. But still, I think the key is to be prepared.

Shoot, don't give me that Boy Scout stuff! If a dog wants to bite you, you're gettin' bit!

Not at all, Fred, not at all. I once lived in a southern state where everybody let their dogs run loose to chase bikes, but I was never bitten. I can handle dogs pretty well.

So what do you do? Do you get off your bike and give 'em a dog biscuit?

Well, different people have different ideas on how to handle dogs. Some people say you should get off your bike. Some people say you should make friends with the dog. Some people even say to walk your bike until you're out of the dog's territory. Sorry, none of that makes sense to me. I figure, I've got a right to the road, and the dog doesn't. The yard is his territory. The road is my territory!

Yeah, I can see you explaining that to the dog that's chewin' on your ankle!

But I never let it get to that point. First of all, Fred, most dogs stay in their yard, even if they run alongside me. All I have to do is convince them to stay there. And I do that by being prepared.

You read 'em the Boy Scout Manual? You show them your Scout knife? Give me a break!

I watch out for dogs, and I carry a spray can of Halt pepper spray right at my handlebars, like the mailmen carry. And I know how to use it! It sounds silly, but I think dogs can tell who's afraid of them and who's not. When I see a dog begin to chase my bike, I grab that spray can. About the time I think "C'mon, boy, eat pepper!", most of them lose interest!

You're not tellin' me that stops all of them!

No, but confidence helps. And remember, even if they do chase, you usually don't have to spray them. Most chasers just run alongside. At that point, I don't let them get too close, and I pretend I'm their owner, only meaner.

Oh, you take them to the vet!

No, I give them a nasty yell - the meanest, deepest "NO!" I can muster. Dogs who chase bikes aren't well-trained, but even badly-trained dogs understand "NO!". That stops a lot of them.

And if it doesn't?

Well, now I've got to be careful. I'm not too worried about bites, but I am worried about falling. I speed up, if necessary, to keep the dog away from my front wheel. See, if my front wheel hits him, I might go down. And while I'm riding, I spray the Halt right into his eyes. In almost every case, the dog stops immediately and rubs his eyes, and usually doesn't bother me again.

It takes some care and some practice. You need to be sure you don't hit a pothole - but a good cyclist is aware of the road surface anyway. You need to ride straight while looking at the dog - but a good cyclist already has that skill, for riding in traffic. You also need to spray the dog without spraying yourself or another cyclist. So if you've never used Halt, it's a good idea to practice on dandelions, fire hydrants, potholes and such.

What if you don't have Halt? Say, you could hit them with your tire pump!

I don't recommend that, Fred. It's too easy to lose your balance or get the pump in your spokes and fall. Some people say a hard spray from a water bottle often works. But Halt works better.

So Halt works every time, eh?

Almost. Unfortunately, you've got to be a good shot. And unfortunately, it doesn't spray very far, especially in the wind. And rarely, some dogs come up too fast, and really try to bite.

Uh oh. Now what?

Again, the most important thing is to keep the bike clear of the dog - don't hit them. The yelling "NO" is still important, and so is the Halt. If it comes to this, I've unclipped and kicked a dog in the nose! But not everyone can do that. You've got to be very steady on the bike, and very fast. It may be better to just keep pedaling and keep spraying.

And never ride there again, huh?

Wrong! In fact, if a dog gives me real trouble, I'll be sure to ride by frequently and train it to leave cyclists alone! I'll be ready ahead of time with the Halt, and even some golf-ball-sized rocks to throw. Dogs are afraid of rocks - it's in their genes. In fact, the real reason for 19 pound bikes is so you can carry more rocks!

Seriously, dogs can be trained, even if they're not yours - but you may prefer to call the police if a dog is a real problem. If the owner is violating a leash law, a visit from the police will straighten them out. Um... like that dog over there, running across those lawns. See him? The owner should know better than to let him run loose.

Oh, yeah. HEY, BLOCKHEAD! COME HERE, BLOCKHEAD! COME HERE, BOY! HEEL, DARN IT!! HEY, GET OUT OF THOSE FLOWERS!!! Um... well, I better get ol' Blockhead back home. See you, buddy!

Good grief. See you, Fred. 

- Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski











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