Sharing… the Floop

A lovely reader, we shall call her MsB, sent me (and MrC) a photograph of a somewhat ‘amended’ mural along the Fallowfield Loop (Floop).

Photo (c)Boon - click on image to see large

I really liked her email!

… My personal opinion is that a dog doesn’t have to be on a lead to be ‘under control’. I have taught my off-the-lead dog to sit down out of the way whenever a cyclist passes, since I want to be considerate to cyclists, being one myself. I use the Floop twice a day for dog walking (to get to Highfields Park) and twice a day for commuting. I know some dog owners probably don’t care, but I’ve only ever seen one incident of dog-cyclist rage, and that was with a stray dog.

I guess one of the problems is that it can be almost impossible to hear a cyclist approaching from behind and many cyclists seem to be reluctant to sound bell, in case it’s interpreted as being rude or confrontational.

MsB expressed how as both a cyclist and a dow owner she found the vandalised mural rather offensive. I personally think that some people have either too much time on their hand or are just a little sad.

Her dog, off the lead, has learnt to listen and obey her command to sit, out of the way for oncoming cyclist. I see this often enough on the Floop and I have never had an issue with dog walkers nor their dogs.

I am a cyclist and I love dogs (one day I will have a furry friend!) I really don’t mind dogs off the lead. I rarely cycle down the Floop in a hurry anyway, firstly because it is indeed a shared route (and I like it so) and secondly because me and my bike go on adventures, not races! Also as I do love furry friends to bits, I am more than happy to slow down or even stop to let them me decide where they want to go should they be right in the middle of ‘my’ way.

I thought to open up this email conversation up to the blog as I’d be really interested in what you all think. Have you had issues with other users of the Floop? And most importantly do you ring your bell when approaching walkers (dog and non)? I always do, Pashley’s bell is rather delightful and make people smile, which is nice. The tourer hasn’t got one, so I usually always shout a cheery “morning!” or “afternoon”, which always does the trick and I seem to get a smiley response back (it helps no doubt that I usually, if not always, wear normal clothes which shows I am going somewhere rather than in a ‘sport’ activity plus one big smile always helps too!).

For me it is down to sharing (I mentioned the very same thing in a post few months back). I find it depressing that we get so worked up about ‘our’ right, if we are in car it becomes a ‘driver’s right’, if we are on a bike it’s the ‘cyclist’ right’ and so on… I always feel is about showing mutual respect to one another, be us on a bike, in a car, walking, running or dog walking indeed. In the meantime Sustrans has informed MsB that they will return the mural to its original cheery and polite self, Sustrans Area Manager wrote:

 …it did originally say some thing along the lines of “please keep your dog under control”, responsible owners knowing whether than means their dog can be controlled off the lead.

The Floop is such a delightful route, not only pleasant per se but also takes you places you want to go to! I wish for some people to learn the art of sharing 🙂

Happy week end all!

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12 responses to “Sharing… the Floop

  1. I’ve got no problems with shared paths all, dogs off leads, toddlers wandering off harness, etc. if the owners keep them under control!

    Not much experience with the Floop but plenty on the NCN. I have a bell and use it – usually to good effect and that combined with slowing down + my front light on in daylight and a cheery hello is normally more than adequate. Every now and then I come across people who will just not: give way cyclists/walk more two or more abreast/call dogs to heel/control child(ren) and I am forced to a complete stop. With these people I have no truck. They are not sharing!

    I feel the time has come to force all peds take a path test, have number plates and buy insurance if they cannot/will not use shared paths properly! 😉

  2. It’s all a matter of the individual and dog concerned. If your dog is used to behaving well around people on foot and cyclists, there shouldn’t be a problem, if there is, the owner needs to consider how to mitigate the problems this causes for other people. I’ve met some really inconsiderate dog walkers, pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists on the Floop, generally with the same frequency that people from the wider population are inconsiderate (much as is the case when on the road network too). The bad ones tend to stick in your memory more and can become a ‘majority’ in your mind if you have any pre-existing prejudices against one of the particular groups in question, as is the case at the moment with many people who are prejudiced against cyclists.

  3. I think the problem with an off the lead dog is, perhaps, the addition of a further level of uncertainty – as a pedestrian, cyclist, or indeed, another dog walker, you’ve no way of knowing whether that dog is “under control” or not. That uncertainty doesn’t exist with a clearly leashed dog (I exclude the pestilential thin, invisible in the dark extendable dog lead from this calculus).

    If, as cyclists, it’s considerate to warn other people as you approach, perhaps we might also think it considerate to have one’s dog *clearly* under control, i.e. leashed. Personally, I’d slow down and cover the brakes on seeing an unleashed dog, regardless of the owner’s confidence in its obedience – things can go wrong, and I like dogs, and have no wish to injure one.

    I own a dog, and I know his limitations (he was at the front of the queue for handsomeness and loyalty, but may not even have turned up when they gave out smarts) so he’s always on a lead on paths, and maybe that colours my judgement.

  4. I love it when dog owners have dogs that are under control off-lead – I’ve always been incredibly impressed by this. What I have trouble with are on-lead dogs that are on the opposite side of the path to their owners and the lead is stretched over the path (especially if it’s that thin retractable sort that I can’t see from a distance). They may be on-lead, but they can still not be ‘under control’. Also, parents/dog owners that do ‘Come here. Get out of the lady’s way. Watch out. Get out of the way. Come here, now…’ forever and ineffectually while I have to stop and walk through because the whichever-species knee-biter is confused and wandering all over.

    Biggest peeve: People walking or cycling on the right. Please explain this and make it stop. In some places I’ve been it’s rampant, and I’m the odd one out cycling/walking on the left on a shared use path. Did I miss a meeting? The road crossings buttons seem to be set up to encourage this, requiring me to stand to the right side of the crossing to push the button to cross. Any thoughts? Am I way out of line following keep-to-the-left on a shared use path?

    ps I love your idea of shouting ‘morning!/afternoon!’ – I am totally stealing that =).

    • Ah yes, the perpetual left/right conundrum 😉 I, like you, stick to ‘highway code’ behaviour on the Floop, i.e. I cycle on the left hand side, give way when needed and so on… but I also understand that the Floop is a shared, off road path, people relax and often if in groups (walking, running or cycling) and in conversation they may easily forget which side they’re on or even not realise they are taking up the whole path! But rarely I witnessed it in a malevolent way.

      But anyhow I still stick by my ‘rule’ of just slowing down and shout a cheery “hello!” or “morning!”… usually I am always met with a “Oh sorry!” which is nice 🙂

      The issue that I have with people jumping in front or leisurely walking in/on a cycle path is especially on the section between the Whitworth Art Gallery and the shops opposite Royal Eye Hospital (going towards town/UoM) where every pedestrian seems to be drawn towards the cycle path (think of a moth towards a lightbulb) and walk right in the middle of it! But then they just look at you like “what?” *fuming*

  5. Mmmm…just to be awkward I have mixed feelings on this one…

    On the one hand I agree with Darrell & yourself about anybody who won’t share, and have a particular dislike of cyclists who behave as the worst type of motorist we all complain about – they really are no better! The upshot of this is that despite slowing down approaching pedestrians, they often still feel the need to jump out of the way & sometimes appear peeved that I don’t pass by them quicker so they can carry on their way – a bit of a no win situation!

    On another hand, as much as I can appreciate your friend being offended, I find things like that pretty amusing…and would still if it was aimed at cyclists speeding past dog walkers without being careful & slowing down…or at dog walkers who don’t pick up their hounds ‘mess’…because sometimes it can be good to take a lighthearted look at things. As a parent, what I really find offensive is the swearword in a place where kids might see it.

    On yet another hand (metaphorically speaking, I’m not an inbred with more than two hands), I have actually been on the other end…of the lead so to speak – with our (late) dog Cassie. She was 4 yrs old when we got her & within a month or so when walking along a green lane near home, Cass’ off the lead and sniffing through the grass as they do, a guy on an mtb appeared behind & she went from a placid (albeit stockier than average) shetland sheepdog to a teeth-bared nutcase. She bit his foot (not so bad)…and then she bit his bare calf (which was) and he wasn’t so pleased about that (can you blame him?!) He wasn’t riding slowly either – but I’m not mentioning that to ‘shift the blame’ – I’m mentioning it to illustrate that a dog needn’t be a pit bull terrier to suddenly snap & injure somebody.

    We could have easily gotten into trouble over that, and in an attempt to get her out of it took the bike along to a quiet field with her. The minute I mounted the saddle she changed. The second I pedalled she snapped & started to chomp my precautionary loose clothing! Dogs tend to bond to one person in particular. Cassie was ‘my’ dog but even that didn’t matter to her when wheels were involved.

    It’s from that experience that I’d appreciate dogs to be on a lead on places like the floop. I ride slowly around people & animals out of common courtesy. The presence of a dog-lead, even one of those extend-able ones wouldn’t change that, but would be much appreciated.

  6. I usually quite like dogs too, as long as they belong to other people. I have very rarely been menaced by a dog on the Floop, and even then it’s been more a case of the dog wandering about in a doggy way, which is what they do.
    Like you, I am seldom in a hurry on my bike, preferring to set off a bit earlier so as to have the time to take it easy and enjoy the ride. Even if I am in a bit of a rush, the seconds that might be needed to avoid a dog, or for that matter a human bean is not going to add enough late time to get stressed about. Mobile phones are wonderful for telling folks one is going to be a bit late too.

  7. …and I don’t wear a helmet either, not when I’m just getting from one place to another.
    It must have been embarrassing for Cassie’s owner. Presumably she had had bad experiences with bikes as a pup, or just not been trained to accept cyclists.

  8. About walking on the left or right… I also find it irritating when pedestrians or cyclists are wandering along on the right hand side. But we were always taught to walk on the right hand side of corridors and staircases when I was at school. It took ages to get out of the habit!

    • That explains it! Thanks – I think I’ll feel a bit less frustrated now – just having a possible ‘why’ in my head. I had always thought it was only on escalators in the tube that the rule was stay to the right, but now I know =). Makes sense.

      LC – It never seemed malevolent, just felt like I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and I was confused. In Southampton it did feel like I was actually a hazard riding on the left most of the time, and it seems like when there aren’t common rules, shared use paths get more hazardous than the normal level of confusion that combining cyclists, skaters, pedestrians, commuters, pootlers, adults, toddlers, four legs and two legs would give you. Drifting cos you’re pootling or talking to someone is one thing, but a complete opposite expectation where the norm seems to be that all pedestrians walk on the right, and there are LOTS of them – doesn’t mix well with cyclists at all, and when some cyclists try to keep left and some keep right and some bomb through wherever they can fit – it was unpleasant riding.

      LC (again!), I really love your approach with pedestrians – when I do the same, it always does work out better than when I get worked up and grumpy. And *mostly* when I’m on a shared use path, I think in terms of assuming that everyone will think they’re the only person on the planet, and I try to make sure I’m not in a hurry (and being on a bike I love helps =) and I have realistic expectations. But sometimes my ride – even a pleasure one, or perhaps more so in that case – is full of me grumbling in my head things like ‘WHY in the name of all that is holy would you walk at the far left with your dog at the far right and a lead running across, and just stand there and do nothing as other people (on wheels OR feet) approach?’ or ‘Good on you for going on a ride with all your mates and all your collective kids. Now let’s talk about clumping up 20 deep on the path and letting your two-year-olds drift hither and yon unattended…’ sigh.

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