February 11, 2016
A quick Google search of bicycle-animal encounters suggests that more than 10% of all cyclist accidents are caused by collisions with animals or other objects. In a more extreme example, a cyclist in a Chicago suburb was recently hospitalized after colliding with a goose. In that case, the hospitalized cyclist was riding with a group when a goose took flight out of a retaining pond that the group was riding past. The goose flew directly into the lead cyclist, causing him and the rider immediately behind him to crash. Geese are large animals, often weighing 15 to 20 pounds. A bicycle impact with that large an animal is the equivalent of colliding with a large Thanksgiving turkey.
If you have collided with an animal while driving your car, you know that animal collisions can be difficult to avoid. You can take a few common sense precautions to minimize animal collisions when you are on your bicycle.
First, remain aware of animal risks. If you are riding in a forested or rural area, you are more likely to encounter a wandering animal. Scan the road well ahead of you and watch for signs of animals on shoulders and in tall grass next to the road.
Next, if you are riding in a group through an area that has a large wild animal population, avoid the urge to form a tight group peloton. Spread yourselves out to give riders that are in a rear an opportunity to stop or swerve around a cyclist who might be unfortunate enough to hit an animal.
Cyclists are generally aware of the risks of domestic animals, particularly aggressive dogs. Those dogs are just protecting their turfs. In less populated areas, dogs may not be familiar with bicycles and will perceive them to be a threat to their turf. When you see a dog, ride cautiously and quickly past the dog’s property. If the dog pursues you or your group, shout loudly at it to scare it off. If it continues to pursue you, dismount, position your bicycle between yourself and the dog, and spray some water from your water bottle at the dog. Do not use mace or pepper spray, as most of those sprays have a limited range and the dog will probably not be close enough to you for the spray to have any effect. You are more likely to have the spray dissipate into the faces of your riding partners than on the dog.
If you have an animal collision in spite of these precautions, treat the situation as you would any other accident. Assess your damages and injuries and contact emergency responders if the injuries are severe. If the animal is injured, do not approach it, but leave that task to the emergency responders as well.
Your own insurance will likely be the main source of funds to pay your medical expenses if you are injured in an animal-bicycle collision. If you believe that another party was responsible for causing the collision, or if you are having any trouble with your insurance company, please contact us for a free consultation on your case. We represent bicycle riders exclusively, and we understand the challenges and risks that cyclists face every time they head out for their rides.