I have scared a good number of pedestrians while on my bike. They get into a groove, have music on and don’t hear a nearly silent bicycle behind them. I am always courteous and two to three seconds before I overtake them call out “on yer left” to let them know they are not alone. I pitch my voice specifically for their hearing and keep it calm. Most of the time this works and I pass without incident, occasionally the person is so wrapped up in their world that they jump a little. The exception to this has been dogs; with better hearing, noses and sense of what is around them, they often look around at me before I even get close. Today was the exception.
Before I get to today’s events, I need to digress. When I say two or three seconds, I mean exactly within that range. The variance takes into consideration the speed at which I am travelling and has been dialed in through a lot of experience. While I don’t ride the major MUTTs while commuting or training (only on family rides) I often pass pedestrians that on sidewalks, or walking/running in the bike lanes or shoulders of the road. And I have learned that if I call out too late (within a second of passing them), they tend to startle and I worry they will jump into me or it I call out too soon (four or more seconds) they tend to get confused and move in front of me. With only a couple of seconds warning, it gives them enough time to hear me (and enough for me to get out of the way if they jump towards me) but not enough time to move in front of me. It’s a science!
Back to this morning: I was at the bottom of the Market Street hill where there is a bike lane and a shoulder. I noticed a pedestrian, jogging with a bigger dog (looked like a Weimaraner maybe). I did a quick check for headphones (I up the volume of my voice if I can see them) and assumed the dog was ignoring me. Whoops!
As I called out “on yer left” the jogger jumped up and almost got taken out by the dog that hadn’t heard/smelled/sensed me and was rapidly skating sideways (thank goodness away from me) as quick as it could, all the while peeing. I apologized as I went by and did a quick check to make sure neither dog nor jogger were keeling over in shock. After I got by, I revisited my actions and determined that I had called out within my prescribed time, passed at a safe distance and a safe speed. I felt bad that I startled the dog so badly but it lead me to wonder if dogs begin to mimic their owners and get in the “zone”; ignoring everything around them. I’ve never seen it before, but I now know it can happen. I’m just glad the dog chose flight over fight or I might be missing part of my leg.