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Kangaroo Has Aussie Cyclists Jumpy, But in Boston, It’s the Doggone Canines

Stunning footage of a cyclist in Queensland, Australia being wiped out by a full-grown kangaroo mid-leap had many riders feeling a bit jumpy, especially given that this was supposed to be a quiet ride along a quaint country road. The Courier Mail, which posted the video, reports the unsuspecting cyclist was laid out when the kangaroo seemingly went on the offensive, leaping from the bush, knocking the cyclist onto her side before hopping away unscathed into nearby tall brush. The entire thing was captured on camera by a fellow rider.

News outlets reported the cyclist was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital and released with stitches on her knee and sling for her right arm.

Barring any mass marsupial breakouts from the Franklin Park Zoo, a kangaroo “attack” on any Boston cyclist is highly unlikely. However, other animals – primarily, dogs – have proven problematic for regular riders. In these situations, our Boston bike injury attorneys know to help you recover damages.

It seems almost every bicyclist has at least one story of a close call involving a canine. Many cyclists can outrun even a fast dog, but too often, riders are often caught unaware when the dog ambushes from the side or gives chase uphill. These incidents most frequently occur on suburban or rural roads – including those crossing through Lincoln, Concord, Sudbury or Dover, Sherborn, Medfield or Essex, Ipswitch and Hamilton. Conflicts or other incidents with dogs are also more likely to occur on “bike paths,” which are technically multiple user recreational paths. People ride on these paths because they feel safer, but they are also used by joggers, people with pets and small children. A pet owner with a dog leash stretching across the width of the path is akin to a dangerous tripwire for a cyclist. Dog-related incidents are much more likely to happen in this setting than on a bustling Boston street.

It’s important for riders to watch for dogs and ride cautiously to outrun them if one gives chase. Most bicyclist injury claims that are dog-related aren’t the result of an attack or a bite. Injury is typically the result of a chasing dog getting caught in the bicycle spokes or wheels, causing the bike to crash. If a cyclist is injured after a dog gives chase or collides with a bike, it is often negligence by the dog’s owner – more precisely, the failure to exercise control over that dog  – that is to blame. Through our years of experience as bike attorneys, we know what type insurance coverage may be available and how to secure you damages caused by an unleashed dog.

 

Local Ordinances/ Leash Laws

The first step in asserting your rights as a bicyclist injured by a dog is understanding that pet owners are bound by certain state and local regulations. For example, pet owners in the City of Boston must ensure their dog is “under control” when not in a home or fenced in yard. Dogs are also not allowed to roam neighborhoods, get into trash or “bother the public in any way.” This rule also applies when pet owners take their dog to the park. Similar “leash laws” are in effect in most other cities and towns as well.

Boston also enforces state law pertaining to dog restraints. State law holds that no person who owns or controls a dog can allow it to worry, wound or attack another person, nor can that dog be allowed to trespass on personal or business properties or allow it to run large unless it’s kept on a leash that doesn’t exceed 10 feet in length.

While other municipalities have dog leash laws too, enforcement in non-urban centers tends to be more lax.

Some examples of instances wherein a dog owner may be liable for a bicyclist’s injury:

  • Dog chases cyclist, causing cyclist to lose control/ fall;
  • Dog chases cyclist, who collides with dog, getting caught spoke or wheels and cyclist to lose control/ fall;
  • Cyclist looses control of the bike/ falls while trying to evade a barking dog.

As injury lawyers, we know well the statutory and case law precedent and insurance law in Massachusetts that will allow you recover damages for bicycle crashes and injuries caused by errant dogs.

It should be noted that if the dog is injured incidentally to the collision, you won’t be liable for that unless there is strong evidence you intentionally tried to harm the dog (which is almost never the case).

What to Do if You’re Chased by a Dog While Cycling in Boston

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for evading a dog that has given chase, a dog behavior expert interviewed by Bicycling.com offered the following tips:

  • Out-sprint it. If there is any chance you think you can outpace the dog, try to do that. The average dog can run about 19 mp, though some can be quite a bit faster. This is only effective if you see the dog coming and you’re not bound to city traffic rules that will require you to stop or slow at numerous intersections.
  • Deter or scare it. A less aggressive dog may be startled enough by a deep, loud, “Go home!” You may try startling it by squirting it with your water bottle. Some bicyclists carry pepper spray, but that’s only really effective if you’re sure of your aim. The dog behavior expert said cyclists may want to consider carrying a “dog horn,” which can deliver a burst of sound that can be shocking to many dogs.
  • Protect yourself. If you can’t deter the dog and there is no chance of avoiding a confrontation. stop, but the bike between you and the dog and don’t look the dog in the eye. Stopping your movement may result in reducing the dog’s aggression. If not, you may again try your air horn or other repellent.

If you are chased and suffer an injury, our bicycle injury attorneys in Boston can help you explore your legal options for recovering damages.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-789 BIKE (2453).

Additional Resources:

Queensland cyclist crashes into kangaroo, Jan. 30, 2018, By Ben Graham, The Courier Mail

More Blog Entries:

Better Bicycle Infrastructure in Massachusetts Will Take Time, Feb. 21, 2018, Boston Bike Injury Lawyer Blog