How to (usually) stop a charging dog in its tracks; Culver City Chamber President offers non-apology

Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I found myself living in Baton Rouge, a couple hours north of New Orleans.

That’s where I bought my first adult bike from the local outlet of what was then the nation’s oldest continuously operated bike shop, thanks to a tax refund courtesy of a conservative president far too liberal for many of today’s conservative voters.

One of my favorite riding routes out into the Louisiana countryside required passing a ramshackle shack with the rusted hulk of a car in the front yard, and a massive Doberman on the front porch. An unleashed Doberman, I might add, who had no love of bike riders passing by on the road in front of his home.

Inevitably, the dog would sprint out of the yard, chasing me down the street snarling and snapping, and striving to bite anything he could get his teeth on.

Including me.

I tried everything I could think of to defuse the situation, from pedaling furiously to outrun his snapping canines to squirting him with my water bottle, and tossing dog treats behind my bike.

At best, I only managed to distract him long enough to sprint away. And he’d be waiting right there on my way back.

That changed the moment I finally remembered a lesson learned growing up in a house full of dogs.

So one day, as the dog was bearing down on me, instead of running away, I pulled up short and stopped in front of him carefully placing my bike between us, just in case. And as he prepared to lunge at me, I shouted out a single word.

“Sit!”

And to my everlasting surprise, he did.

The dog stopped on the spot and sat there in front of me, watching me intently and waiting for my next command.

So I said, as authoritatively as possible, “Go home!”

He did, sadly turning tail and slinking back to his own yard, apparently disappointed that I didn’t want to play anymore.

After that, I didn’t need to get off my bike any more; it was enough to shout “go home” as I rode by. Eventually, the dog didn’t even bother to chase me any more, accepting that it just wasn’t worth the effort.

That’s when it sank in through my sometimes dense brain matter that almost every dog know certain key commands. And they instinctively want to obey, even if they’ve never seen you before.

Since then, I’ve tried the same technique with countless other dogs. And it’s worked almost every time, almost without fail.

Some dogs are just incorrigible.

The key is to issue a command, not a request.

No matter how big or angry the dog may be, try not to show any fear. Then use your best drill sergeant voice to order it to sit or go home.

“Leave it” is also a popular command that works with a number of dogs these days, mine included; for some reason, “stop” doesn’t seem to work at all.

And not everyone can pull it off.

But if you can, it’s the most effective tool I know to stop a dog dead in its tracks.

………

He just doesn’t get it.

Yesterday, I linked to a letter written by Culver City Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose, in which he criticized Metro’s “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” campaign, trotting out a number of the common fallacies typically employed by bike haters.

Wednesday afternoon, he offered a non-apology, professing to have been misunderstood, and that his comments reflected his personal opinion and did not represent the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

Right.

The problem is, he cites his position to give gravitas to his opinions. But in doing so, he links them to the organization he represents, whether he wants to or not.

If he doesn’t want his comments to reflect on the Chamber, all he has to do is drop the title and identify himself simply as a Culver City businessman.

But the moment he identifies himself as Chamber president, he inevitably links his comments to the Chamber of Commerce, despite any protestations to the contrary. And rightly or wrongly, makes it appear the Chamber shares his opinions.

As for those opinions, he is correct that cyclists are required to obey the same traffic regulations motorists are. The problem comes when he suggests it is up to us to use extra caution when we ride, once again placing responsibility on cyclists for the actions of those we share the roads with.

Because the key to bike safety isn’t obeying the law, using reflectors or wearing helmets. It’s not getting hit by cars.

And we’re only part of that equation.

So I’ll say it again.

Collisions are hard to have. If you drive safely and obey the law, and I ride safely and obey the law, it’s almost impossible to have a collision.

Yes, many riders could show more courtesy to others on the roads. But placing the responsibility for safety on those of us on two wheels is just blaming the victims, and ignores the dangers posed by those who are far more capable of causing serious injury or death.

He may be a responsible driver.

But responsible observer of the situation on our streets is another matter.

When he wants to follow up his letter with one calling on drivers to share the road, pass safely, signal their turns, check their mirrors, obey the speed limit, look for riders before opening doors, and give cyclists the same right-of-way they would any other vehicle, then, and only then, will his comments be worth taking seriously.

And not reflect negatively on the organization he claims to represent, but not speak for.

………

Finally, a 73-year old spree killer faces charges in Mesa AZ.

The woman driver fled the scene after hitting and killing a bike rider, only to blow through a red light and kill another motorist just six minutes later.

10 comments

  1. Sidney blum says:

    I read the culver city chamber of commerce presidents new letter. I ride 35 miles a day to work and have been for 20 years. WHAT HE WROTE IS GOOD FOR CYCLIST. I can’t believe how negative you are. He calls for bike lanes and says he supports cyclist. We need more people like him and you should publish his entire article like you did the last time and let us judge. I love reading your articles but when someone has a change of heart you need to recognize it. And by the way, I agree with everything he wrote. Of course we need to have extra care because car drivers can be idiots. It’s call defensive riding and I practice is as I ride from Chatsworth to Santa Monica each day. I think you owe an apology to the president of the culver city chamber of commerce

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry, Sidney, but I have to disagree with you on this one.

      While he proclaims his support for bicycling, Rose’s first letter was an attack on bicyclists and full of fallacies – such as questioning whether his car insurance would go up because of cyclist’s rights, implying that cyclists don’t pay for the roads we ride on, and falsely suggesting that the rights of cyclists will somehow outweigh his rights as a motorist, when all we’re doing is claiming our legal right to the road.

      No one can possibly claim that letter supports bicycling or the rights of cyclists in any way. And yet he does exactly that by continuing to blame the bicyclists who pointed out his mistakes, claiming that he was somehow misunderstood.

      Nowhere in his second letter does he profess a change of heart, as you suggest. And nowhere does he correct the errors that were pointed out to him in the comments or in any way apologize for them.

      Yes, he does make some valid points in his initial piece, as well as the second letter. We all should use good lights after dark, and everyone should stop at stop signs, even though most drivers do little more than slow down while continuing to roll through the intersection, something that is known around the world as the California stop.

      As you point out — and I have repeatedly argued on this blog — we do have to ride defensively and take extra care because too many drivers don’t. But for Rose to claim, as he does in his second letter, that that was the purpose of his first letter is to bely virtually everything in it.

      I’m glad that he claims to support bicycling and bike lanes. But if you can go back and read the full first letter — which I did not include in my initial post — and show me where he even hints at that, I will gladly offer that apology you think he deserves. Instead, I will wait for his, which I suspect will be a very long time coming.

      And to sign his letters as Chamber president, then be shocked when his comments reflect negatively on the Chamber, is either incredibly naive or the height of hypocrisy. I’ll let you decide which.

      • sidney blum says:

        I believe your initial reply was spot on given his first article and got the second article written. For that, you are to be congratulated.

        I notice in the second letter he no longer calls for insurance nor a fee to use the road, so I see that as a proper correction. I was impressed he noted bikes don’t cause wear and tear to the road like cars.

        I realize politicians don’t know how to apologize, so I am assuming his second letter is a back off from the initial opinions and as close as a change of heart we should expect. Based on that, I am hoping, like the Mayor of LA, he can become a bike advocate and we don’t chance him away from cycling.

        In looking at his second letter by itself, without regards to the first, I would like to see more public officials even take some care about cyclist. I wish we could change more politicians.

        Please keep up the good work as these talks are healthy.

  2. boyonabike says:

    The Culver City Chamber of Commerce president issued a very poorly thought-out statement and had to back track after it caused a furor. This is good, and in general I think his clarification is much better than his original statement. The clarification is to be welcomed, but I don’t see any evidence in the letter that it represents a change of heart. Moreover, I think this blog raises an excellent point that drivers of 2,000-lb moving vehicles also need to use caution around vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. Some countries even have “vulnerable road user” laws that place the burden on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle (i.e., cars) in road situations. That is not (yet) the case here in the US, but one can see the logic in such laws. Do cyclists need to follow the rules of the road and ride defensively? Of course, and no one is suggesting otherwise. However, this does not preclude recognition that the burden for road safety should not fall exclusively on vulnerable road users. I hope this blog continues to make that point as often as necessary.

  3. gottobike says:

    Metro’s “Every Lane is a Bike Lane”? Here in San Diego, I think we should just rename our sidewalks to bike lanes and have a public awareness campaign “Every SIDEWALK in San Diego is a Bike Lane”. It seems the only safe place to ride a bicycle in San Diego anymore is the sidewalk.

  4. Awesome advice, although I’ll wager that the dog was a tremendous incentives to practice sprints. :)

  5. jerrymon says:

    If dog commands don’t work use bear spray. It works every time and they won’t chase you anymore.

  6. grrlyrida says:

    I was one of those who complained, directly to the Culver City Chamber by telling them when Ciclavia rides by I promised not to purchase from any business in Culver City. I also may have mentioned that I promise to tell others to do the same. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

  7. Steve Herbert says:

    I think the chamber president doesn’t necessarily speak for business in Culver City.

    Recently we went through an effort to place sharrows on Sepulveda between Culver Blvd to Ballona Creek. First there was delay due to a misunderstanding by a council member, then further delay when the Chamber asked for noticing of the businesses along the stretch of Sepulveda. Culver City Bicycle Coalition visited all the open businesses on a Sunday prior to the issue coming before the council; speaking with the owners and/or management on site of each business open that day and didn’t find an single objection to the plan. Furthermore most of those we spoke with were enthusiastic about cyclists and their businesses.

    When the project again came before the council for approval, the Chamber didn’t have a position on it. While the chamber is a traditional pro-business networking and lobbying body, its rather unclear to us how well it actually represents business in Culver City.

    I would ask that cyclists NOT withdraw support of Culver City businesses based on Mr. Rose’s comments.

  8. Live To Ride says:

    Here some advice from who rode motorcycles for twenty years, 200,000 miles, is first that just about everything out there is trying to kill you, second I if you want to lock horns with 3000 pounds, you will loose, just be happy that one and while you have a good day of riding. Last when you get in your car and turn the key, you are now one of them.

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