Shared-use paths are back in the spotlight again after an incident near Bangor in North Wales left a dog needing a leg amputated following a collision involving a cyclist.
The Daily Post reports Buddy the 11-year-old springer spaniel lost a leg after being struck by a cyclist in Gwynedd, suffering a badly crushed ankle while being walked off-lead on the Ogwen Trail, which is part of the National Cycle Network's Route 82, and described as a "spectacular traffic-free" route by Sustrans.
Bob Hutchinson's dog was hit by a cyclist who "zoomed past" as he walked three other dogs with two friends.
"We had no idea he was coming. When he hit Buddy, the dog yelped loudly," the 74-year-old recalled.
"The cyclist dismounted and there was an altercation – he claimed he’d rung his bell, but none of us heard it."
Despite being able to limp home, two days later the much-loved pet was in visible pain and unable to put weight on the damaged leg.
An x-ray showed a lower leg fracture and gave Bob the uncomfortable decision of deciding between having Buddy put down, operated on, or the leg removed.
"I was worried about long-term problems and I didn’t want him to suffer, so I went for amputation. When the limb was removed, the vet said the ankle joint was so badly shattered, an operation wouldn’t have succeeded anyway," the local resident said.
Questioning the "arrogant" attitude of some cyclists, Mr Hutchinson claimed using the path, which was tarmacked 20 years ago, has "become a frightening experience".
"A majority of cyclists are courteous but some are incredibly arrogant," he said. "From Glasinfryn to Bangor Dock it’s all downhill all the way and on some sections, cyclists can reach speeds of 30-40mph.
"Some of them use it as a race track. It’s crazy and it’s frightening. If they’re going at the speed, you’ve no time to react and often you won’t even hear them coming. It’s beautiful around here, with woods at the side of the path, but if children run out when a cyclist is coming, there could be a really serious accident.
"When these cyclists zoom pass you, before you know it they have gone. Unless they’re local, there’s no way you’ll ever find out who they are."
Mr Hutchinson has complained to Gwynedd Council before about the path which is shared by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, and his story had an all-too-familiar polarising effect with the local news website's readers.
Some took the opportunity to point the finger at reckless riding by some using the path to cycle, with one woman telling the Daily Post she is too scared to use the path after her three-year-old child was nearly "killed" by a cyclist.
A dog walker also reported being knocked over by a cyclist while using the shared-use path.
"No warning – the wind behind the cyclists – and bang......right into me as I went to pull my dog out of the way. The cyclist hit my left side and landed on top of me. Tyre marks remained on my leg for three-and-a-half weeks. Bruised and battered and aching for months," they said.
"I hate walking anywhere near cycle routes now and feel quite scared when I have to."
However, others labelled out-of-control dogs off leads as the main danger to path users.
Mr Hutchinson insists his dog was under control at the time of the collision, even if he was not using a lead.
Wendy Challis-Jones told the online news outlet: "On a cycle path dogs should be on a lead!"
Another reader added: "There are lots of safe places where you can let your dog off the lead, a footpath where there are other pedestrians and cyclists is not one of them. This gentleman epitomises everything that's wrong with a lot of these irresponsible dog walkers. Its heartbreaking that the poor dog has had to pay the price for his folly."
Last month, a district council in Devon made headlines after enforcing a new public space protection order requiring dog walkers to use leads shorter than a metre near cycle paths and highways.
The safety of cyclists was cited for the rule, which does not apply for parks and beaches, but could see owners who walk their dogs on leads longer than a metre fined £100, or face prosecution, with maximum fines reaching £1,000.
So how can shared-use paths be made safer for everyone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments...
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.