Celebrating the extra hour of post-work daylight, Kate and I got out for another bike ride tonight. We headed up the Rattlesnake along Duncan Drive and then portaged over the slush into Lincolnwood, then further up the main corridor and back around again to return across the Clark Fork River over the UM campus bridge at Eastgate. It was a nice ride, but that isn't really what this post is about. The bridge at Eastgate is a nexus between the UM campus and eastern Downtown Missoula. At its base on the west side of the Clark Fork, the bridge trail intersects the Kim Williams Trail, a route that follows the river for several miles both up- and downstream. With the good weather of the last few days, the trail has become packed with runners, bikers, dog walkers and clueless pedestrians walking four across and taking up the whole width of the path. While the clueless pedestrians provide ample rant-fodder, that's not what I'm posting about tonight, either. As we came down the bridge to the aforementioned intersection, a cyclist approaches on a neon orange road bike, riding only a little more than walking speed. Nearby, a girl with a brunette ponytail and big sunglasses walks her Scottie dog on one of those extensible cable leash things, at its fullest extension. She's not paying much attention to where she's looking, or to where the dog is. Next, all I can see is the bike jarring to a halt, entangled in the leash and the little dog cartwheeling almost though the frame of the bike. I don't remember if the cyclist went down, but I do remember him riding toward us again at the same plodding pace moments later. A girl nearby is red-faced and in tears, and the dog owner has scooped up the little Scottie and carried him to a nearby field. He looked OK, but who knows? I'm not sure where to lay the blame on this one. The biker was JRA (just riding along) and he was certainly going slow enough that his speed was not a factor. The girl clearly was not paying attention or had not realized that she had a small living thing under her care an had allowed it into a very dangerous situation by letting its leash out so far in such a heavily trafficked area. Who am I kidding? I blame the girl. I've seen dog owners in Missoula do plenty of really stupid things, and last year Kate was nearly taken off her bike by a leashed dog in a very similar situation to today's. Here's a few notes to people getting back out on the bike paths this time of year: 1. Welcome back. Those of us who use the paths year-round can't say we really missed you all winter, but the warmer weather sure is nice. 2. Believe it or not, there are actually people going both directions on the path, and when you and your friends walk four abreast, you impede their travel. It's annoying enough when they are overtaking you, but when you see them coming and don't even attempt to move out of the way, that's just lazy. 3. If your dog's leash is extended longer than the path is wide, and especially if your dog is unpredictable, you are harboring a potential tripwire AND you are putting your dog in danger. 4. That said,Missoula does have a leash law and it does cover the entire trail in town. Use a leash. And if you see me glaring at you when you have a dog and no leash, don't try to make it better by pretending your dog is under voice command by yelling at it. It makes you look stupid and it isn't very nice for the dog, who has no idea what you're talking about. 5. Nobody can stand less than 10 feet from their dog and pretend convincingly that they don't realize what it's doing on the grass. Get a bag and clean it up. 6. The path is not your personal racetrack- there's lots of open roads out there and they are all great places to go all out on your road bike, fixie, or cross machine. The path in town just has too many people, leashed dogs, unleashed dogs, etc for going much over 10mph during peak hours. That about covers it for now.