Archived Opinion

Loose canines are a cyclist’s nightmare

Loose canines are a cyclist’s nightmare

To the Editor:

I became a cyclist in June 2020, and it has changed my life for the better. I got healthier, I made new friends, and strengthened existing relationships around my new hobby. I ride about 3-4 times a week, usually around the back roads around Cullowhee.

Anyone who knows about road cycling in Jackson County knows that Caney Fork is the “crown jewel” of the many roads to ride here; it is a designated bike route with signs that notify the very few cars one encounters to be aware of bikes, and that cyclists have the right to use the entire lane. As far as auto traffic goes, it is one of the safest roads around. 

In the past year I have been riding Caney Fork about 6 to 8 times a month. After my first few rides all the way to the top where the pavement ends, I learned when you get up high enough, dogs become a hazard. Due to that, I usually turn back not long after passing John’s Creek, about half of the way up. 

Friday, September 23, was a beautiful day. I started up Caney Fork and decided to go near the top, short of the dogs that I usually encounter a half mile before the top. My caution notwithstanding, that day I was ambushed (there really is no other word for it) and chased by dogs a total of four times, including within a mile of N.C. 107 where Caney Fork starts. Each time, the offending dog pursued me for some distance, forcing me to put much effort into evading them. Not only is the threat of getting bitten a problem, but a dog can also be the catalyst for wrecking on a bike which is a much more harrowing proposition, especially when you are sprinting to outrun a dog. Worse yet, it could result in wreck involving a motor vehicle. 

If the status quo with respect to our canine friends on Caney Fork is permitted to continue, it is only a matter of time before a cyclist gets seriously hurt; especially unsuspecting tourists and other cyclists that may not be aware of the hazard presented by dogs on that designated bike route. The Jackson County tourism board’s slogan is “Play On,” indicating that Jackson County is a place to hike, run, fish, paddle, rock climb and cycle. I am certain none of these dogs’ “humans” would want their dog to be the cause of serious injury.

There is presently a Jackson County ordinance about “nuisance dogs.” However, it requires the complainant to note the address and notify animal control. This is problematic. First of all, the address of the offending dog(s) is not easily ascertained in a very rural area like Caney Fork. Secondly, it does nothing to protect those uninitiated to Caney Fork. There are presently no leash laws in Jackson County. I am writing this letter to call upon the Jackson County Commission to pass an ordinance that requires dog owners to protect their dogs, cyclists and other people from an unfortunate incident that endangers both canines and humans. The county commission needs to pass an ordinance requiring dog owners that reside on Caney Fork and related roads to prevent their dogs from becoming a threat to people. This could be done by fence, kennel, leash or electronic barrier. 

In a county that prides itself as a location where outdoor sports will foster business and tax revenue by attracting both tourism and new residents, it would be in the county’s best interest to pass an ordinance that would protect people and dogs from such unfortunate encounters. Ideally such an ordinance would be county-wide, but short of that, Caney Fork is a good place to start. The time to act is now.

Peter P. Nieckarz Jr.


Leave a comment


  • Those of us who are actually from these mountains are sick of bicyclists on our country roads! You out-of-towners are always trying to come in and change our native ways of life. Do you also go to foreign countries and expect those residents to cater to you? If you don't like the dogs, bike somewhere else! Better yet, go back to whatever city you belong in! We sure as hell don't want you here.

    posted by Mountain Mama

    Friday, 10/07/2022

  • I have lived on Caney Fork my whole life and never once has any other person complained about dogs been lose while riding their bicycles. I think that all you out of state people need to go back to where you come from. Y’all complained about dogs been tied up or on leashes that is was just so inhumane. Well guess what now y’all are bitching cause their running lose enjoying life. Y’all will never be happy no matter what the county commissioners do. So why don’t you take you and your bicycle and ride in Sylva or even go to Asheville where their spending unnecessary tax dollars for a bike lane??. Also might I add that Caney Fork is not one of the safest roads, oh please the blind curves we have and we have to worry about hitting someone like you because you’ve decided to take a break in a curve. I have on many occasions ran outta the road almost lost control of my vehicle to miss one of y’all! I HIGHLY DOUBT THAT YALL ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR ME A NEW CAR!! You will try and blame it on us. So take your crap somewhere else.

    posted by A very pissed off Caney Fork Resident

    Wednesday, 10/05/2022

  • Simple solution don't ride your bike on Caney Fork! I have lived on Caney Fork all my life, I assure you that y'all are not wanted on Caney Fork and John's Creek. Y'all complain if dogs are on a chain, now your complaining about dogs running loose. Make up your mind and for the love of all stay off Caney Fork!

    posted by Fed up with outsiders....

    Wednesday, 10/05/2022

  • I have lived on Caney Fork my entire life and one of the only reasons i don’t like Caney Fork is all the bicyclists and the Great Smokies Relay that takes place every year where there are hundreds of bicycles and vans stopped in blind curves and being a hazard to everyone driving because Caney Fork does not have a bike lane and that is for a reason, the sign at the bottom may say “bike friendly” or whatever it is but I can promise you no one on Caney Fork wants you here you are nothing but a problem and a safety hazard. Our dogs are not the issue, we live on Caney fork 9 miles off the main road for a reason so our dogs can roam and do what they were made to do protect our property and families and livestock. The dogs were there long before the bicyclists and they will be there after , bicyclists need to find a new place to ride and stop invading and ruining our homes with your snowflake values.

    posted by Name

    Tuesday, 10/04/2022

  • I live on Caney Fork and i have swerved and hit my brakes and almost ran out of the road to miss cyclists. If I wreck, because they are in the road, are they liable for damage to me and my truck? I think the nuisance is the cyclist, not the dogs. The road is very narrow and most evenings I am very tired and have come upon a cyclist wearing black and/or no light on the bike. Extremely hard to see, especially in a blind curve. There are other places for them to ride in a bike lane, and our commissioners are spending a huge amount of money to install bike lanes in Sylva.

    posted by Tina

    Monday, 10/03/2022

  • “As far as auto traffic goes, it is one of the safest roads around.“ No it definitely is not one of the safest roads around, as far as traffic goes! Have you not noticed all the blind curves on this road? When a motorist comes around one of these many blind curves and one of you cyclists are in the middle of the lane, we have to slam on our breaks or try to swerve around you to avoid hitting you, which could cause a head on collision. You stated “I am certain none of these dogs’ “humans” would want their dog to be the cause of serious injury.” Do YOU want to be the cause of serious injury? Because you are on a bicycle on a curvy narrow back road where motorists can’t see you in most places until it’s almost too late? No one that lives on Caney Fork cares about the dogs being out. That’s part of why some of us live way out here so our dogs can run free and not have to be cooped up inside or on a chain! We chose to be way out of town to avoid “ordinances” like this. Everyone that lives up here can’t stand cyclists being on this road because they have caused nearly all of us to have a wreck. Jackson county is already spending millions of our tax payers dollars to widen the road in town to add a bike lane, USE IT. Not these narrow back roads where YOU are a hazard on the road.

    posted by Chelsea

    Monday, 10/03/2022

  • With extensive personal experience, I concur with the danger of dogs to bicyclists on Caney Fork and elsewhere in Jackso County. I have been to emergency rooms twice as a result of encounters with dogs on Jackson County roads, one of those being on Caney Fork. Dog owners (or their homeowner insurance policies) have been responsible for resulting expenses.
    Loose dogs are dangerous to cyclists, walkers, motorized vehicles, to the dogs themselves and to the owner's wallets.
    Imagine the resulting personal and financial damages if lift-threatening injury occurs.

    posted by Carlton Bostic

    Monday, 10/03/2022

  • I too have had this experience multiple times on Caney Fork, both alone and with another cyclist. The vicious nature of the dogs (at two homes in particular), is why I no longer ride that beautiful road. It's a crying shame.

    posted by MtnCyclist

    Sunday, 10/02/2022

  • AMEN! (in giant capital letters!). Loose dogs are a nuisance to pedestrians and property, as well. And not just unaccompanied dogs - but also folks walking WITH their dog with a leash in their hand, but not attached to the dog, and the dog going (literally and figuratively) wherever it pleases. What's the point?

    posted by Rheneas

    Sunday, 10/02/2022

  • An excellent editorial that hits on a problem throughout much of western NC. The lack of leash laws not only affects cyclists but walker, runners, homeowners, as well as pet owners who have to put up with other peoples animals threatening those pets that are trained to stay in their own yards. Letting dogs run loose is a way of life in these rural areas and they are afraid that any leash laws will affect their ability to run hunting dogs, etc. A well thought out stray and off-leash ordinance would benefit not only people and their pets but those animals that are running loose.

    posted by Cliff Kevill

    Saturday, 10/01/2022

  • Such an ordinance would also help keep the dog's human from being sued by anyone who was injured in evading the dog.

    posted by Karen I Noftsier

    Saturday, 10/01/2022

  • It is no longer safe for dogs to run loose. I wish it were, but it isn’t. Dogs need to be protected from cars, theft, and becoming a problem to others, as cited here. It is best for all concerned.

    posted by Helen Geltman

    Friday, 09/30/2022

  • I'm so sick of dogs everywhere.

    posted by Naturally

    Thursday, 09/29/2022

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.