Sustrans stresses shared use paths are for all after Taff Trail dog incident makes news (+ video)

Cyclists, dog owners, and pedestrians reminded of their responsibilities… and Sustrans calls for safer routes too

by Simon_MacMichael   February 11, 2013  

Taff Trail sign

The issue of conflict between cyclist, pedestrians, and dog walkers has once again been highlighted by an incident on the Taff Trail in Cardiff, which left a 10-month-old Boxer puppy named Buster with a broken leg. The news comes as Cardiff City Council plans to put on training courses for new cyclists inspired to ride by Great Britain’s success at London 2012, with Sustrans Cymru calling for safer routes to be made available for cyclists as more residents take to two wheels for their commute.

From a report of the incident by BBC News Wales, it appears that both Buster’s owner and the cyclist involved may share some responsibility for the unfortunate pup’s injuries, the former for not keeping him under control – the article doesn’t say whether or not he was on a leash, only that he ran into the cyclist’s path – the latter, perhaps, for going too fast.

Both issues are addressed in the Taff Trail Code of Conduct, which Sustrans Cymru issued in 2011 in response to a number of incidents involving cyclists, walkers and dog owners on the 55-mile route, which at its southern end has become a popular route for Cardiff commuters riding from places such as Llandaff into the city centre.

The Taff Trail Code reinforces that “pedestrians have a priority over all other users on shared pathways,” and that “cyclists are asked to ride at a speed and in a manner that is appropriate to the conditions of the path.”

It adds that “pedestrians are asked to keep their dogs under control and preferably on a reasonably short lead in busy areas.”

As road.cc user and local cyclist Chris Humphreys told us, short of the cyclist having a bike computer or the dog wielding a radar speed gun, there is little way of knowing exactly how fast the rider was going – although he adds that given the condition of the path, “you’d be hard pushed to top 15 mph,” and in any event, there are plenty of fields adjacent to the path where dogs can be safely exercised.

The dog’s owner, Mark Dickenson, who faced a £2,600 vet’s bill to repair Buster’s leg, told BBC Wales: "I'm a cyclist myself and cycle to work in Caerphilly every day so I'm not against bikes on the Taff Trail.

"But the Taff Trail is a shared path and is there for cyclists, dog walkers and walkers so cyclists shouldn't go as fast as they do.

"The vet thought Buster's injuries had been caused by a motorcyclist because they were so bad."

He didn’t explain – or wasn’t asked – how Buster had been able to run into the cyclist’s path in the first place.

Matt Hemsley from Sustrans Cardiff told road.cc that while the Taff Trail is a superb facility and especially popular with commuting cyclists, dog walkers and bike riders alike needed to share it responsibly with others, and that those on two wheels shouldn’t ride too fast while those with four-legged friends need to keep them under control.

He had also been quoted in the BBC News article, although he told us that they had not mentioned the incident involving Buster but instead asked him for Sustrans Cymru’s views on the cycle training Cardiff City Council is introducing, according to the BBC, because “It wants to tackle problems such as cyclists riding too fast, on pavements and going through red lights.”

Hemsley told road.cc: “Shared use paths are of great benefit to the entire community, but it’s important that all users are respectful of each other, which is why Sustrans promotes a code of conduct. If you want to cycle fast, shared-use paths are not the place.

“We’re pleased that the council is willing to offer more cycle training, which can be especially helpful for people returning to cycling who may be inexperienced at cycling on-road, but it’s important we also have more safe routes away from traffic – such as the Taff Trail – otherwise many people who might want to take up cycling may end up being put off. 

"As the Welsh Government prepares to launch the Active Travel Bill, now is the perfect time to start assessing where those safe routes should be.”

In 2010, the Taff Trail was the subject of Penarth cyclist Steve Castle's winning entry in Sustrans' My Cycle Network competition. His film certainly highlights the attraction of the route for commuters.

 

24 user comments

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I (used) to commute on the Taff trail every day - the sheer number of people who let badly trained dogs loose on a shared use path is asking for trouble. Especially around 5-6pm in twilight (where neither the dogs nor the people have lights on!).

On the flip side, the speed some people carry through the park is insane (you only have to look at Strava to see that) and people need to be more careful. Going above 15mph is certainly possible, though not necessarily a very good idea!

I've stopped using the trail because of a combination of idiotic pedestrians and cyclists and now prefer to stay on the road.

posted by mattheww385 [45 posts]
11th February 2013 - 23:32

2 Likes

Matthew, out of interest, how do you exit Cardiff? I assume you use the underpass(es) by Asda (etc) and onto Tongwynlais? It's remarkeable that Cardiff (northbound) is essentially land locked.

posted by bendertherobot [303 posts]
11th February 2013 - 23:45

0 Likes

I witnessed a cyclist go over the bars due to a dog suddenly emerging from behind a tree on the Taff Trail, resulting in a broken collarbone. The dog was unharmed.

I agree that cyclists should slow down on this multi-user artery though it does seem to me that the onus is weighted on the dog owners' side.

posted by markyboy007 [20 posts]
11th February 2013 - 23:57

3 Likes

Bendertherobot - I live in Rhiwbina so don't have to exit Cardiff, however if I was heading up to Tongwynlais or somewhere in the lower Taff Valley I'd probably stick on the West side of the river and go through Radyr on the B4262.

posted by mattheww385 [45 posts]
12th February 2013 - 0:31

1 Like

The BBC article has big gaps for such a long article. Nothing about how the cyclist or the bike fared in the incident, nothing about the relative positions of cyclist, owner and dog before the incident, nothing about the degree of control the dog was under. If the dog and the owner were right next to each other, maybe the cyclist should have seen both and rang his bell and waited, but if the dog was somehere off the path and suddenly burst out in front of the cyclist, it would be easier to understand why the cyclist had trouble reacting fast enough.

However, it seems to be the cyclist's fault we aren't getting to hear his side of the story. The only thing the rider definitely seems to have been culpable of is leaving the scene of an incident without exchanging insurance details with the dog-owner first. (I'm surmising that it must have been a hit and run (and that the cyclist was probably OK) because the cyclist doesn't seem to have a name in the article, the journalist hasn't spoken to the cyclist, and the owner seems to be believe he's stuck with the full vet's bill even though he also believes the cyclist was responsible for the incident.) Shared use paths are hazardous enough to merit both cyclists and dog-owners having personal liability insurance, regardless of who was at fault (and to what degree) in this particular incident. I think the cyclist would probably have stopped and given the dog owner his details if he had insurance. The dog would still have had a broken leg (or two!) but the BBC would have had a single-incident "accident" story rather than a story about "one of many irresponsible speeding cyclists". The insurance issue strikes me as more relevant than training in this context - the council training is hardly going to focus intensively on dealing with barking mobile roadblocks, or persuade all the faster cyclists to forsake shared use paths once and for all.

My own experience of dogs and shared-use greenways etc. is that the dogs are usually OK; the leashes stretched across the path and the owners calling their dogs to come when obeying that command puts them on a collision course with me are harder to bear.

posted by bambergbike [87 posts]
12th February 2013 - 1:18

2 Likes

Thanks Matthew, that's a long detour mind with some sharp hills.

Just picking up on the 15 mph comment. Yes, you can do it. There are good stretches, certainly as you get towards town. But Hailey Park (where it is likely this accident happened) is poorly surfaced especially at the underpass end.

As to the assumption of leaving the scene. It's certainly possible but the article leaves that to implication. I wonder what the whole story is? He may not have been insured, of course, but I wonder how many dog walkers on the Trail are carrying 3rd party liability?

posted by bendertherobot [303 posts]
12th February 2013 - 8:47

1 Like

Dogs are a nightmare on shared use paths. Long leads, no leads, dogs running lose, snarling bull terriers, groups of dogs, no owner control, I get it all on my commute.

Sustrans should encourage that shared use paths should be dog free.

posted by seanbolton [140 posts]
12th February 2013 - 9:52

4 Likes

These paths are a waste of money as far as cycling is concerned. Too dangerous!

posted by SideBurn [836 posts]
12th February 2013 - 10:01

1 Like

From my own observations on cycle paths both as a cyclist and a pedestrian the dog was probably not on a leash. Logic dictates dogs in public places should be on leads. No matter how well trained a dog is they are an animal and are unpredictable. Conwy council in north Wales have at least realised this and have been trying to force dog owners to leash their dogs on shared use paths on council owned land. The thing that really infuriates me though about the BBC article is that it puts the safety of a human being below that of a dog, only in the UK would that happen.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
12th February 2013 - 10:04

1 Like

Shared path, shared responsibilities, shared acceptance!!

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [964 posts]
12th February 2013 - 10:26

2 Likes

This is from almost exactly a year ago on exactly this subject by @cyclestuffblog from over on the twitter: http://cyclestuff.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/doing-it-doggie-style/

posted by mattheww385 [45 posts]
12th February 2013 - 10:51

3 Likes

This article is completely biased towards the dog walker, with no mention of if the puppy was on a lead or ran in front of the cyclist. Angry

I can;t believe they managed to shoehorn a reference to red light jumping onto a story about a off road shared use path.

Dogs and dog walkers are a big reason why I avoid shared use paths. The dogs are often either loose, or on very long leads streched across the path.
I have far more problems with out of control dogs when I'm out running than anything else.

posted by thereverent [304 posts]
12th February 2013 - 11:18

1 Like

@bendertherobot: You're absolutely right that I may have been putting two and two together and making five; I hope I haven't falsely accused the cyclist of leaving the scene and apologize if I have. I would hope that cyclists would stay on the scene in incidents like this to defend their own interests as much as for any other reason: if this particular cyclist was entirely innocent, or at least more wronged than wrong (30% liable, say) it would be nice to see a BBC story about out-of-control dogs reflecting that. For all we know, maybe the cyclist did stick around and identify himself; it's possible that the journalist just opted to tell the tale from Boxer's point of view.

Calls for dogs to be on a lead at all times are possibly unhelpful. My parents have a "problem" dog and anybody walking him needs to do so in a permanent state of heightened awareness (with constant shoulder checks to detect cyclists and joggers approaching from behind). In my experience, that awareness never, ever slips when the dog is off the lead; it has occasionally slipped when somebody in the family has just been trudging along, lead in hand and mind somewhere else.

posted by bambergbike [87 posts]
12th February 2013 - 11:55

4 Likes

Human life is precious, and all cyclists need to be vigilant on shared paths and cycle trails; a loose dog running in to your wheels could cause a nasty accident or even the death of a cyclist! Dog walkers should keep their dogs under control at all times; and remember that others use the same track and trail as you do. Oh, and just a word about Ramblers! They need to be prepared to walk in single file when the see other trail users approach; it's very rude to remain spread out across the trail, especially when you see a cyclist or Jogger approach you, good manners and some decent etiquette wouldn't go a-miss with all trail users.

posted by Mostyn [407 posts]
12th February 2013 - 12:28

2 Likes

I have always used shared paths with caution.
See pedestrians - slow down.
See a dog walker - assume the two are connected by a tripwire lead and slow down.
See dogs off the lead - accept they may move unpredictably and slow down.
Combine the above with lots of bell use, and the ride is usually free of incident.

Meanwhile in Southend-on-Sea the council are backtracking on their definition of the seafront City Beach 'shared space' following a nasty collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian. From what has been read in local papers it appears the cyclist was travelling far too fast among pedestrians. But until there is more information released that is about as much as can be said, and even that is not 100% certain.

Previously the council had described the entire area as shared space, now they are saying the 'shared' aspect only applies to one side of the space. Yes, you've guessed it, they are saying the place where the collision occurred is not shared space.

Here's the story in the local paper:

http://bit.ly/12qFcjJ

Here's the follow up where the councillor for transport says cyclists "should not be on the pavement":

http://bit.ly/11KiHdJ

And here is that councillor's blog where he says only half the 'shared space' is actually shared space:

http://bit.ly/VcScto

Needless to say this has left cyclists in Southend wondering where they CAN ride in this area. Do we continue to treat the area as shared space? Do we now stick to the road? How do we now stand legally if unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision with a pedestrian?

Thanks for nothing Southend Borough Council.

vexedveloist's picture

posted by vexedveloist [8 posts]
12th February 2013 - 13:05

2 Likes

its a shared path - dogs get spooked by bikes - if you want to ride a bike hard and or fast, go somewhere other than a shared path

spindoctore's picture

posted by spindoctore [49 posts]
12th February 2013 - 13:20

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seanbolton wrote:
Sustrans should encourage that shared use paths should be dog free.

Sorry, but it won't happen, just as 'encouraging' dog owners to keep their dogs under control and clear up dogshit doesn't work.

If 15 mph is the fastest reasonable speed then this is really just a footpath with some white paint on it. Shared paths are OK for slow leisure rides and safe routes for families or nervous commuters away from busy traffic, but if cycling numbers continue to grow then these paths will become even more hazardous and congested.

In busy urban areas they really are NOT a solution. If cyclists wanted to ride everywhere at 5 mph then they may as well bloody walk!

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2000 posts]
12th February 2013 - 13:58

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Simon E wrote:

In busy urban areas they really are NOT a solution. If cyclists wanted to ride everywhere at 5 mph then they may as well bloody walk!

Hear hear!

I wouldn't walk my dog next to a road without a lead on. Why people walk dogs without leads on paths that are open to bikes, I can't imagine.

Also, I have third party liability insurance through BC - but I wouldn't fancy being the insurer that has to work out liability when an unleashed dog appears from a hedge.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [897 posts]
12th February 2013 - 14:14

2 Likes

thereverent wrote:
This article is completely biased towards the dog walker, with no mention of if the puppy was on a lead or ran in front of the cyclist. Angry

Hoping you mean the BBC piece, not ours, where we say: "... the article doesn’t say whether or not he was on a leash, only that he ran into the cyclist’s path..."

Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8258 posts]
12th February 2013 - 14:23

1 Like

I live within 300 yards of NCN 4 near Llanelli - the Millennium Trail. As a dog owner, I've had problems with cyclists and as a cyclist, problems with dogs and their owners. Firstly, as a dog owner one of the main problems I face is quiet approaches from behind by faster cyclists - not even speeding ones just people doing 10 - 12 MPH. Even when the dog is on his lead and quite close, an unannounced cyclist trying to squeeze past IS going to elicit a response from the dog and I'm sorry, I'll try to stop him bouncing but he is probably as startled as me! I think most dog walkers and other pedestrians appreciate a gentle warning - I tend to either ring my bell or call out something like "Hi, can I squeeze past?". I've actually been thanked by walkers for being polite!
As a cyclist I've had to put up with all the other crap (sometimes literally)and last year ended up having to point out to one woman that in the event of an accident between me on my shiny metal bike and her rat on a rope, the yorkie would be an ex-yorkie. She was upset but I wouldn't want the death of her dog on my hands.

posted by shockleader [20 posts]
12th February 2013 - 19:55

3 Likes

I have come across the problem along the camel trail here in cornwall again there are signs advising to keep dogs under control i.e on a lead but almost on every occassion dogs are running loose near misses happen all the time then tempers flare!

The whole point of Sutrans is to provide sustainable transport as i understand it transport is a conveyance of some form now not being biased walking a dog is not suatainable transport is it? And saying 15mph is too fast is a mute point some people travel faster than others like cars etc.

andrew miners's picture

posted by andrew miners [46 posts]
13th February 2013 - 9:34

3 Likes

Some attitudes expressed here remind me of some motorists attitudes towards cyclists. As cyclists we ask for a little consideration from those we share the roads with.
It's a shame that some of us don't practice what we preach.
It's the same attitude and beligerent 'ownership' of the road that leads to conflict from drivers and here we are berating dogs, walkers and dog owners in the same way.

posted by Gero [16 posts]
13th February 2013 - 10:43

2 Likes

As a daily user of this part of the Taff Trail as both cyclist and dog walker [sometimes cycling when walking the dog - I know I know] the real key here is not that cyclists go too fast [some do] or dog walkers don't keep Rex under control [most do], this is all diversion from the base fact.

The Taff Trail is NOT fit for purpose for what it is advertised to be. The code or standard is biscuits.

The council know it isn't fit for purpose, Sustrans surely must know this too...but instead of tackling the underlying problem they do daft stuff like this as a fix.

Rather entertainingly we are a number of weeks away from a new bridge over the Taff being opened that will hopefully tempt many more commuters onto bikes...sadly after the new wide paths planned...they end up riding through Hailey Park on paths that are only wide enough for 2 people to walk alongside each other....good work.

Shambles

We all have to use it together, the pressure should be for the paths to be upgraded...avoiding the conflict...but no, I suspect that is a bit too much like hard work and may mean cutting a tree down...

posted by ct [54 posts]
15th February 2013 - 13:08

2 Likes

Far be it from me to play devils advocate and not to belittle the obviously important implications for all involved but this does smack of double standards doesn't it?

Roads are supposedly for all, as those sickingly ineffective safety campaigns point out, and some motorists get to behave as they see fit with frustratingly lethal consequence.

The upshot of that? No-one gives a monkeys apart from those paying for such abandonment with their lives....us lot.

Contrast this to another supposedly 'for all' facility and arguably the most dangerous factor (a cyclist moving at 20mph or so) is then (quite rightly) chastised but in this scenario I would expect the presiding council along with the local duffer MP would fall over themselves to be seen safeguarding public safety...how noble of them...

or as I see it yet another case of 'if it's not a motorist then it's fair game'.

You need not worry however if you do wish to ride recklessly, especially if safety measures were implemented to enforce safety rules along the lines of the ones used for motoring. You can anticipate:

Speed bumps that co-incidentally are just narrow enough to fit precisely between the track of wheels thus offering no actual need to slow down at all.

Safety cameras painted luminous yellow in fixed locations that might not actually be working.

Safety cameras we learn to slow down for briefly before hammering it again.

Safety cameras that we can avoid by having our Garmin bleep at us or by looking at a map in advance.

Mobile speed units that have to tell us which tree it'll be behind in advance so as to not be 'unfair' allowing us to claim a 'war on cycling' is crippling the UK.

A social expectation that if you do actually kill anyone then it's anyones fault but yours...use the 'they haven't paid pavement tax excuse', goes down well.

Other acceptable excuses for ploughing into people involve the sun in your eyes, I was doing my make-up, they should have been wearing a suit of armour, I was asleep, I was just Twittering, I needed the toilet...essentially anything remotely believable to help the magistrate move on to more pressing matters such as issuing a CCJ for a delinquent credit card account.

Essentially, on this model it's a very bad day to be a dog on those pathways...dogs have rights however and MP's will listen to them.

Why oh why dear politicians is safety so important when it's cyclists potentially clashing with dogs and pedestrians yet equally and perversely so unimportant when it's cars hitting cyclists?

If we could get an answer to that we'd gain some valuable insight into the minds of those who could do us a Disney and make things so much better.

So, as for an actual answer...who wants to hold their breath first?

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [143 posts]
31st December 2013 - 1:20

1 Like