Gear Prudence: I’m sick of inconsiderate people walking their dogs on trails and then yelling at me for biking even remotely near their precious pups. First of all, if they cared that much, they wouldn’t let the dog out on a 10-foot leash. Secondly, it’s a mixed-use trail. If your dog can’t handle bikes nearby without getting freaked out, maybe you shouldn’t walk it there. What is the best way to bike on a trail near dogs to avoid these kerfuffles? —Watch Out! Oblivious Fellow Enrages Rider
Dear WOOFER: For every story about an inconsiderate dog walker, there’s an equally valid story about a jerk bicyclist, so let’s skip the recriminations, accept that some members of both groups sometimes fail to live up to expectations, and tackle this problem in a way that acknowledges that neither dogs nor bicyclists are going away anytime soon. Let’s also posit that the dogs themselves are blameless and that any misunderstanding or bad feelings derive from the actions and reactions of human beings, a far inferior species.
As for avoiding these situations, as a bicyclist you have a limited suite of options, but more than enough to resolve most issues. Warn early and loudly enough to give the walker enough time to reel in the dog. Pass with extra space, and always rate the dog as you pass with a score higher than 10, even though that’s mathematically nonsensical. If you have to slow down to get by safely, then slow down. Sure, this is “unfair” to you, but since the alternative could be an unfortunate interaction with a startled animal, cope. After all, mixed-use goes both ways. —GP
Gear Prudence: Biking in flip-flops: bad idea or the worst idea? —Shoes Always. Never Deny A Loafer
Dear SANDAL: A mostly OK idea, actually! But highly dependent on context and with some potential drawbacks. Exposed toes in the summer are far better for heat regulation than sweaty soles in socks and sneakers, and if you’re already walking around the city in flip-flops, it’s not like you’re going to accumulate more road dirt and grime on your feet by biking. Obvious downsides include potential difficulty with pedaling, due both to the floppy material—providing an unsteady surface for maximum power against the pedal—and the slipperiness. Flip-flops tend to have less grip, so you might find yourself sliding around a little, or even worse, with one (or both) sliding off your foot (or feet) at an inopportune time. Of course, the biggest downside is the lack of material between your foot and the asphalt should you fall off the bike or should your foot otherwise make contact with the ground. Other shoes are probably better for biking, but if you find yourself in flip-flops and a bike trip beckons, don’t skip it due to insufficient footwear. —GP