Cyclists, Drivers Debate Canyon Protocols

Shepherd Canyon has always been a challenging place shared by homeowners, bicyclists, drivers, walkers, soccer players, dogs – you name it.

Lately there’s been plenty of discussion about the appropriate protocols among the two-wheelers and four-wheelers who share the canyon road.  The terrain translates into few shoulders, many blind spots and no easy answers.

Shepherd Canyon Road, Oakland

The debates are lengthy, and depend on behaviors of rogues and law-abiding citizens.  We think it all boils down to these five perceptions:

  1. If rider is pedaling down the road, then that’s considered legal and appropriate behavior.
  2. If cautious driver follows rider, then driver needs to take heed and not surprise ’em.
  3. If rider gets angry at driver, then it might mean rider is concerned about life and limb.
  4. If driver is barreling down the road, then driver might put the rider ahead at risk.
  5. If rider uses railroad path, then walkers with and without dogs pose mutual risks.

We believe in using a little common sense and following the rules of the road.  We live in the hills, where terrain challenges are part of the bargain.  Are we missing anything here?

Tough To Enforce Leash Laws

You may experience the Dog Wars in Montclair, simply by wandering the streets and local paths.  In one camp, there are people who want dogs to be leashed.  In another camp, there are owners who want their dogs to run free.

Most of the time, there’s detente because Oakland already has leash laws.  Some city parks allow leashed dogs, and a few have controlled and fenced areas to unleash dogs.  On the surface, we have a well-organized and civilized way of keeping both camps happy.

Dogs On Leash

Dog Bites Woman

However, some dog owners are blithely ignoring the rules of order.  Last week, there was a stellar example of dog-bites-woman on the Shepherd Canyon path.  One runner reported she had been bitten three times by a white-coated dog – and twice during a single day!

This dog owner “refuses to put the dog on a leash and does not respond to my request to be a responsible pet owner,” explained the victim.  “I would hate for other runners, children or casual walkers to experience what I have over the past several weeks.”

Ranger Rescue

While details have been reported to the Oakland Police Department, this is hardly high on their list of priorities.  It used to fall to the Oakland Rangers, who are now an endangered species.  Ranger Kent McNab still responded to this latest victim and to locals:

Message to Victim:

If you see her [the dog owner] again, please call the Park Rangers directly at 482-7888, and we will try to contact her.

Although there are only two rangers now, and we only work 10am – 6pm Wednesdays – Sundays, we can usually respond much quicker than a police officer during those hours.

Message to Locals:

With only two rangers left for over 150 parks, we try to patrol the trail a couple of times a week.  Most of the things we do now are reactive, based on calls from citizens.

After 6pm and on Mondays, Tuesdays, and holidays, when there are no rangers, call the police non-emergency line [777-3333] and they will stack the call for the beat officer.

Ticketing Violators

Montclarion Robert Scribner believes the Shepherd Canyon path dog-attacks are not an anomaly.  “It is a matter of complete disdain for the law and the rights of others. I have witnessed and personally experienced several incidents like this one.”

During prime-time dog walking hours, around 7:30am weekdays, Scribner recommends that rangers set up shop and issue tickets to all owners of unleashed dogs running up the Shepherd path.

We noticed the rangers aren’t on duty then, but believe there are practical solutions like switching ranger hours, having rangers work a little overtime, or making this path a patrol priority for Oakland police.

Dog Wars Detente

Well there should be detente between the two camps, because there’s room for co-existence.  The leashed camp seeks safe passage along the Shepherd path, whether for runners or families.  Let’s see if the laws can be enforced now.

All is not lost for the unleashed camp, who already use dog runs or visit more welcoming spots.  While this requires a quick drive uphill, owners happily take their off-leash pooches on endless Sibley, Huckleberry or Redwood Park trails.

It’s disappointing that the Shepherd path skirmishes are happening, as it points to a lack of civility.  What’s with these dog owners, who simply refuse to follow a few simple laws?  Anyway, we hope that detente is restored in our local Dog Wars, because we have bigger things to worry about.

Update: “The matter of dogs being walked without leashes, and the alleged woman with the dog that has bitten residents, is on MSIC’s radar screen,” said Nick Vigilante.  Anyone with info about this offending dog owner may write Nick at, and your identity will remain confidential.

Safety Boost For Shepherd Canyon

The long-awaited Shepherd Canyon parking problem is finally going to be solved.  It’s generally an accident waiting to happen, if you drive down the Shepherd Canyon Road while soccer games are in progress.

Through a combination of public funding and private donations, a new parking lot will be constructed over the next few weeks.  The City Council approved 29 spaces, a wooden fence and five redwood trees planted as a visual barrier.

According to the resolution, the construction will be mostly financed by City District 4 and At-Large City Pay-Go funds.  The gap was closed through these private donations:  $30k from the Montclair Soccer Club; $7k from the Friends of Oakland Parks & Recreation; and $5k from the Montclair Safety & Improvement Council.

I’m not complaining, but with our City budget in shambles how come everything isn’t put on hold?  I don’t pretend to understand why current budget allocations are sacrosanct.  In any event, we are moving forward on this small construction effort in Montclair.

The City requires work to be completed rather quickly, because there’s a rainy season moratorium that kicks in by October 15th.  Bids were already requested and received back in August, in anticipation of this construction timetable.

It’s been a long while since the original plans were created for Shepherd Canyon Park, and the need for decent off-road parking was identified five years ago.  Soon we can cross this safety item from the list.

Fixing The Sink Holes

Don’t hold your breath, but Oakland’s going to permanently fix the Shepherd Canyon sink holes. After numerous road repairs over the years, an appropriation should be approved tomorrow:

These sink holes appear on a regular basis, when there’s plenty of rain that isn’t diverted properly. Apparently, the storm drainage pipes buried underground are nearly 60 years old and have seen better days.

Based on this resolution, the pipes will eventually get replaced. The real question is…when?

** At nearly $1 million, this fix could get delayed by budget snafus. The City says it will cover part of the cost, and likely seek assistance from State and Federal coffers too.

** With funding, construction bids are set for next February. This means we can look forward to another winter with sink hole possibilities, before this fix is in the ground.

At least we’re on the radar screen, as part of Oakland’s storm drainage capital plans. If you’d like more info about the Shepherd mess, please read the full resolution.