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Off-leash dog 'hammer slams' cycling senior
Man taken to hospital with possible concussion after dog runs into his bike wheel on seawall
Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

Inline skater Lorne Milne, who witnessed the accident, wonders why the parks board doesn't fence off Coopers Park to prevent dogs from running onto the pedestrian and cycling path.
CREDIT: Photo-Dan Toulgoet
Inline skater Lorne Milne, who witnessed the accident, wonders why the parks board doesn't fence off Coopers Park to prevent dogs from running onto the pedestrian and cycling path.

The dog that caused a cycling accident on the seawall in Yaletown Saturday was bad enough. The actions of other dog owners on the scene were almost worse, says a witness to the accident.

Lorne Milne said after the collision between the off-leash dog and the cyclist, a dog owner identified himself as a first aid attendant and went to the man's aid. Milne, who is also a first aid attendant, attempted to stop traffic on the seawall and clear the area before the ambulance arrived. But curious off-leash dogs hindered the job, he said.

"Other people didn't bother to leash their dogs and they were wandering over to where the man was lying," said Lorne Milne. "I got angry and started yelling at them to put their dogs on a leash, but they argued with me that it was an off-leash area so they didn't have to."

According to Milne, the accident victim, fit and possibly in his late-70s, was slowly riding his bike on the seawall by Coopers Park in the designated cycling path when a white and black off-leash dog--possibly a Jack Russell--ran into the man's front wheel. The wheel spun sideways and the man fell off his bike laterally, slamming his head and body onto the path. Milne, an inline skate instructor and advocate, said the man hit his head so hard his helmet cracked. He was knocked unconscious for several minutes.

"In inline skating we call a fall like that a 'hammer slam,'" said Milne. "A hammer slam is when you hit a hard surface with a massive impact. When he came to he could only remember his first name and that he lived in West Vancouver, but luckily he was only unconscious for a few minutes and hopefully he'll be OK."

The man couldn't remember what had happened, the day, his last name or the name of anyone to contact. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance. The man who owned the dog that caused the accident left the scene with his pet without leaving contact information.

Milne noted while Coopers Park is an off-leash area, the seawall is not. Adding to the confusion were three homemade laminated signs that read "Dog Run Park" tied to lampposts on the seawall. Milne said the signs pointed at the seawall and not Coopers Park, and the off-leash dog owners referred him to the signs when he asked them to leash their dogs. The parks board sign that lays out the off-leash area in Coopers Park was also missing. When the Courier visited the scene Monday afternoon, the signs faced away from the seawall and toward Coopers Park. Milne suggested the signs either came from a dog owner who wanted to informally expand the off-leash dog area while the city is on strike, or a seawall user tired of dealing with dogs running free.

Milne said temporary fencing at Coopers Park, with a gate so dogs can't wander onto the seawall, would be an easy temporary solution. He said fenced off-leash areas are popular in the highly dense Manhattan area of New York City. He'd also like to see a "Dog Crossing" sign posted at the gate to the fenced area to warn seawall users.

"As an inline skater on the seawall, this is something I've been thinking about for a long time, and now I'm kicking myself I didn't made a bigger deal out of it before this guy was hurt," said Milne. "He looked like a really fit guy, and I hope this doesn't stop him from riding his bike."

Milne was told that same day that a small dog was killed recently when it ran in the path of someone riding a mountain bike.

"But the people I heard it from were blaming it on the cyclist," said Milne. "I know most dog owners out there do act responsibly, but it only takes a few to ruin it for everyone."

Parks board commissioner Ian Robertson told the Courier parks staff are considering fencing. A fenced-off area for small dogs is already in place in Stanley Park, while an environmentally sensitive area at Trout Lake is also fenced to keep dogs out.

"We do have some experience with fencing," said Robertson. "And anecdotally, I think it's a neat idea."

Robertson said a dog strategy task force, formed last September, took a break during the summer and will reconvene this fall. The task force was formed largely in response to complaints from residents about off-leash dogs in the city. Many dog owners claim there aren't enough off-leash areas in the city to properly walk their pets.

© Vancouver Courier 2007


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