Manny Crisostomo /

A bicyclist with three dogs in tow crosses J and 22nd streets in Sacramento last month.

Back-seat Driver: Bicyclists and leashed dogs: Illegal? Unsafe?

Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 - 7:53 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 - 6:42 am

Several readers were upset this week when The Sacramento Bee published a photo of a woman riding a bike in downtown Sacramento with one hand on the handlebars and the other holding leashes with three dogs running alongside.

“Ridiculous,” reader R. Larry Ferral wrote, noting the cyclist also wasn’t wearing a helmet. “She is heading for a painful ... crash.” Another displeased reader asked: Is that legal?

Yes, in the main, it’s legal. The state vehicle code does not prohibit it. But, Walt Seifert, a longtime Sacramento cycling advocate and ardent supporter of cyclists’ rights, and several other bike advocates and law officials say it’s risky business. A dog may suddenly chase a squirrel, bolt at a loud noise, or react unpredictably if it sees another dog. Even if the dog is just jogging along obediently, its leash can get tangled in the spokes or pedal cranks, pulling the dog into or under the bike.

Sacramento police spokesman Doug Morse says his department is OK with confident riders with well-behaved, leashed dogs, but he acknowledged, when asked, that police could ticket a rider with a dog on leash if the rider is doing something else wrong, such as going the wrong way down the street or riding unsafely near cars. “Safety is the over-arching message,” Morse said.

We have heard of dog crash stories, but not a lot. It seems like the type of thing where, after one crash, owners and their dogs decide it’s maybe healthier to walk or jog together for exercise.

There also are no rules against cycling with a dog on the American River bike and recreation trail. But, says chief ranger Stan Lumsden, “I don’t think its a good idea.”

Is it OK for bicyclists to ride with a dog on a leash? Comment on The Sacramento Bee Facebook page:

Tow truck anger

Larry Muzamel, head of the California Tow Truck Association, is perturbed at Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor last month vetoed Assembly Bill 902, which would have raised the fine and penalties – from $280 to $490, according to a legislative analysis – for drivers who fail to slow down or move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles that are parked on the freeway shoulder with lights flashing. Brown called the proposed fine increase “more punitive than deterrent.”

The vehicles covered by the several-year- old road safety law include tow trucks, Caltrans vehicles and CHP. The law, often called the “Move Over” law, is still not widely understood, and the tow truck group says the governor missed a chance to put more of a spotlight on it.

“We’re pretty upset,” Muzamel said. “We need to focus on getting the word out to the public.”

Meanwhile, some emergency vehicles are using new roof light technology to reduce roadside risk, Muzamel said. Some drivers become mesmerized or confused by the lights at night and have driven right into emergency vehicles on the shoulder. Now, more vehicles are using new LED lights that no longer flash in an orderly sequence. The differently timed flashes help drivers focus more consciously on the parked vehicle, so they can avoid it.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Read more articles by TONY BIZJAK

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