23

I was coming out of a corner and saw something on the road about 10 meters up but only from about 5 meters I realised it's a snake trying to cross the path.

I panicked but didn't really do anything. Fortunately, it crossed the past quick enough, I just ended up so annoyed/scared.

What's the best action in that situation? Accelerate as hard as you can, while trying to avoid it? Or aim for it? I was too afraid that if I stopped it might chase me.

  • 11
    "The best action" for you or for the snake ? – Criggie Dec 14 '15 at 1:54
  • 7
    Obviously sing this song. – Batman Dec 14 '15 at 2:19
  • 6
    Move to Alaska. Buy a Fat bike. Enjoy riding while NEVER worrying about this problem again. – Deleted User Dec 14 '15 at 6:14
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    Please don't aim for it. That would be unnecessary & cruel. You wouldn't aim for a baby rabbit in the road. It has just as much right if not more to be there than you. If you can avoid it or stop without putting yourself in danger of of colliding with other riders or vehicles on the road, do so. – renesis Dec 14 '15 at 16:54
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    @Criggie a lot of which needs to be refrigerated, and is species-specific. Which is fine in England (1 species) but pretty useless in Australia (28 common ones). If I'm going to carry a full-sized fridge on my bike, it's going to be full of beer. I want to drink a lot more often than I get bitten by snakes. – Móż Dec 17 '15 at 8:51
25

In the situation you describe it sounds like there is no time to stop. The next best option has to be riding around the snake toward its tail, because snakes (like most animals, apart from humans on bike paths) mostly move forward.

If you're going fast and significantly altering course would risk you falling on the ground (near the snake!), just hold your line. If you're confident and skilled enough, you can bunnyhop to avoid injuring it.

I think that's about the sum of what you have time to do in a close-quarters situation at speed. A big part of the outcome is--for better or worse--dependent on the snake.

  • 9
    "bunnyhop over the snake", great advice +1 – DBedrenko Dec 14 '15 at 15:43
  • If I were any good at bunny-hopping under such pressure, lol!! One of the videos I posted in my answer shows a mountain biker who has this kind of encounter with a snake, and he couldn't bunny-hop either! Funny "Oh-Sh--!" stuff, though, and he pretty much did everything about as right as he could in that situation. – Developer63 - GoFund Monica Dec 15 '15 at 5:20
37

Stop. Back up if necessary. Don't risk running over it. Snakes almost never chase people, they will only attack if they're cornered or you're lying very still (for very large snakes that eat things the size of people).

Running over a snake is probably your worst approach if you don't want to get bitten. Not only do you have to be very close to the snake, you're going out of your way to threaten it. Almost any animal in that situation will try to attack you, purely to stop you killing them.

I've seen several snakes, one on my commute route. For me that's a chance to stop and go "Wow! A snake!" and maybe get my camera out so I can take a photo from a safe distance. But even snakes that aren't venomous are best left alone. Either because they're wild animals that you respect and want to encourage, or because the gap between non-venomous and harmless is significant. A bite or accidental impact from a snake can still injure you.

Also, many are protected, and I'm not sure whether being bitten by a venomous snake is actually worse than being prosecuted for interfering with one.

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    +1 for "protected species". At least in the part of the world that I'm familiar with, cyclists are far more of a threat to snakes than the other way 'round. One reason they may be in a road or path is for sunning themselves, in which case they won't be in the mood to move very quickly. – junkyardsparkle Dec 14 '15 at 3:29
14

Thankfully, we have "DOCUMENTED VIDEO EVIDENCE" of snake encounters on bike paths. Since the original question is not specific about the type of bike, trail, rider, speed, or snake involved, answerers had to guess.

Of course, with all these variables, the answer has to be, "it depends."

GENERAL BROAD ANSWERS FOR ALL SITUATIONS:

1) Avoid running over any part of the snake, if at all possible.

2) Do the best you can under the circumstances to give the snake a wide berth, whether by slowing down, stopping and waiting, or stopping and walking your bike off the path and around the snake. Pretty much all snakes you encounter on a trail will avoid you and slither away if they are given the chance. The only snakes that will attack you would be doing so to defend themselves. (Australia may be a special case) Bonus points: stop well before the snake but close enough it senses you, and wait there until it slithers off the path, to alert other cyclists, and help the snake avoid being run over by the next biker down the path.

3) Biker safety first! Whatever else you do, be safe and try not to make such sudden, panic maneuvers that you crash and the snake then becomes the least of your worries. The guy on "Large snake on MTB trail, very limited reaction time" does a great job. In another video, a guy brakes rapidly with his front brake and flies over his handlebars. At least while airborne he was out of reach of the rattlesnake! However, I do NOT recommend this airborne technique...

SPECIFICS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF SNAKES

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SMALLER SNAKE, 1.5-3 FEET LONG, TYPICALLY NON-VENOMOUS

  • Do everything you SAFELY can to avoid running over ANY part of the snake. A bike running over this snake is likely to kill or seriously injure it.

SMALL SNAKE VIDEOS:

  • Small snake 1 injured/died from being run over by bike
  • Small snake 2 injured/died from being run over by bike

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LARGER SNAKE, POTENTIALLY VENOMOUS
In some videos, you will notice the startling speed at which these snakes can move and potentially strike.

  • Given a rapid and surprise encounter with a large snake, assume it is venomous. Be safe first and analyze species later.

  • Avoid running over ANY part of the snake, and give it as wide a berth as possible. * Stop if you safely can, back away from the snake, and give it time to slither off the trail.

  • Keep the bike between you and the snake if at all possible. See first large snake video below.

  • Don't stop and stay stationary within range of a potential snake strike (see "all bets are off" video below.

LARGE VENOMOUS SNAKE VIDEOS

  • Large snake on MTB trail, very limited reaction time, see what the rider does!

  • Larger snake at edge of MTB trail, rider does not see, watch what happens!

  • This biker sees a rattlesnake and brakes abruptly, flying over the snake and over his front handlebars. The biker is out of range, but his bike gets slimed. I'm not sure what to say about this one; not a model, but everyone lived, nobody got badly injured. Simply an instructive example of what you might encounter.

  • This is probably a typical scenario for an MTB rattlesnake encounter. The biker was going fast, had little warning, and took quick evasive action to the inside of the curve and barely missed the snake. Snake at about 1:40 on the video.

  • Another rattlesnake. In this one, the biker didn't see the snake or notice it until editing the video later. Snake is at about 3:00 into the video. Sometimes it's best to be lucky so you don't have to worry about good.

  • In this one, the rider sees the snake and manages to stop abruptly and safely and I expect the snake probably slithered off the trail.

OTHER, ALL BETS ARE OFF...
* Apparently things get very crazy in Australia with all the creepy-crawly venomous things on that continent. I guess the moral is if you stop on the trail, be aware of your surroundings. The video poster says it's a venomous snake; it's certainly aggressive to go after a stopped biker/bike on the trail! The real action starts about 45 seconds into the video.

  • That last video: Dear snake, have my bike pls, kthxbai – Wayne Werner Dec 15 '15 at 19:17
  • Yes, in Australia they have a ridiculous amount of highly venomous creepy crawlies, in addition to land and sea man-eating bities and nasty stingies. One if by land, 2 if by sea... If the saltwater crocs, sharks, or blue bottle jellyfish don't get you, the poisonous snakes and insects just might. I suppose those snakes add a little extra adrenalin to the MTB experience down under! – Developer63 - GoFund Monica Dec 16 '15 at 5:46
  • @Developer63 Very informative, but I think some of the clips (i.e. videos of snakes dying) are irrelevant. I don't think no one intends to kill anything with a bike. Could you elaborate on answer 3), if biker safety comes first, surely you imply the snake's come second? – imel96 Dec 17 '15 at 4:14
  • @imel96 the point is that smaller snakes are easily killed by being run over, regardless of whether the biker intended to hurt it or not. What each person does with that information is up to them based on what is feasible in a given situation. Would you be willing to suffer a broken collarbone for yourself, from emergency avoidance maneuvers, to save a snake from death? There is a Philosophy Stack Exchange that would be a better forum for such questions. My purpose here was to show the range of situations people typically encounter. – Developer63 - GoFund Monica Dec 17 '15 at 6:33
  • I removed a graphic small snake runover death video because it's 5 minutes long for 30 seconds of content. That video is here: youtube.com/watch?v=wh9c7QLMnOk I removed another video where a biker mentions accidentally running over rat snakes regularly, which unfortunately kills them. It did not show the actual snake encounter or outcome. That video is here: youtube.com/watch?v=tbKxuNTEqXM – Developer63 - GoFund Monica Dec 17 '15 at 6:46
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Sorry, continuing pedaling towards a snake if you can stop in time is just dangerous and unecessary. Talking from my own experience (on a motorbike on a sandy track) even driving just close to its tail can cause a snake crossing the road to strike at you (in my case it was a black spitting cobra, and it did hit the bike, but fortunately I lifted my leg in time). All the advice about a snake only attacking when it feels threatened, is true, but driving close to its tail can cause it to feel threatened! Stop if you can and wait for it to cross, or else drive past on the tail side if you cannot stop in time, but keep an eye open for in case it strikes at you. Of course, you could be living in an area with few dangerous or venomous snakes, in which case feel free to just drive past the tail.

  • 3
    Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Thank you for your contribution. I'm forever thankful for living in a snake-free part of the world. – Criggie Dec 14 '15 at 19:17
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    Yep, even I will feel threatened if anything coming towards me in high speed. Your story proves that my fear is reasonable. And venomous or not, being bitten won't be fun and what if it bit and stuck there... – imel96 Dec 15 '15 at 1:32
2

I rode over a Western Australian dugite yesterday, no time to stop or avoid as it was wriggling rapidly from a road onto the bike path from my left. It was about 1 metre long. I crossed it about one third of its length behind its head, but did not see what it did as I was unexpectedly making a funny noise and had lifted my legs straight out in front under my handle bars. It was gone when I stopped about 10 metres on. I have no idea how fast it could react to coil but assume that pinning it briefly at about 1/3 length behind its head would not give it sufficient length to reach my right leg as I crossed above it. Snakes can wrap around car frames and I know a bush nurse who was bitten by a venomous snake that had wrapped itself around a 4-WD running board - it bit her as she got out to open a gate. She survived to tell the tale by bandaging herleg tightly then ramming several gates to get back to the nursing station. I carry elastic bandages with me when riding in snakey areas.

-1

You should:

a. Stop and take a picture of the snake. You'll need to stop well ahead so you don't scare the snake.

b. Keep going in a straight line and don't worry it. It won't bite you. Snakes need to be coiled up somewhat before they strike, and a person moving on a bike doesn't present a good enough target for them to strike anyway. If you run over it, it probably won't kill the snake unless it's a very small one.

-2

You are above the ground moving at speed and pedaling.

If it is not a striking snake it cannot even get to you.

A striking snake would need to prepare and then not just hit your forward motion but also the spinning pedal. A predator is not going to hunt from the middle of a path - they hunt from cover. Once a snake is aware of your presence they will typically move on. If the snake coils or moves into a striking stance then give it space. They can strike about 3/4 of the body length.

If you came across a coiled snake in a path then stop if you can or otherwise run it over. If they are prepared to strike then don't give them an angle on your leg.

Snakes do not hunt from a path. They hunt from cover. If you see them first and avoid you are safe. This a snake sunning or just wanted to get to the other side of the road. And probably not even venomous.

4 down votes? Let's consider nature. How does a horse deal with a snake? First they avoid. If they cannot avoid they come straight at it with all 4 hoofs. Your tire is your hoof.

Even a freshly killed rattle snake will strike from muscle reflex alone when touched. If you are going to remove even what you think is a dead snake from a trail then use a stick unless you know from visual inspection it is not poisonous.

I rode dirt bike in rattle snake country and came upon a few rattlers. They can coil fast and unless you have a lot of speed (like motorcycle) they will be ready for you as they feel vibration in the ground. If they are flat they are probably not a predatory snake. At bicycle trail speed they can can coil and strike faster than I want to take chances. Even a non coiling predatory snake will face you in sprung like position. They can strike a rabbit. I am not giving them an open shot at my leg. Within striking distance of coiled snake snake is not a position you want to be. Front wheel first so they do not have a vector to your leg is the best defense. If you can avoid striking distance then go for it. Otherwise your best out is over the top.

If a snake is hunting from cover they will size you up and avoid wasting venom. Like I said they don't hunt from the middle of a path. If they were in the path they were sunning or crossing.

A poisonous snake like a coral that is not a striking snake is not a much of a bicycle threat and they are secretive snakes. Not likely to find them on a path. And they are going run rather than go into an attack position.

strike video

  • 2
    "And probably not even venomous." Based on what? – David Richerby Dec 14 '15 at 8:16
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    Snakes vary a lot. This may be true where you live, but may not necessarily apply everywhere else. Snake expertise is not an exportable commodity. – Davidmh Dec 14 '15 at 8:23
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    @DavidRicherby Statistics – paparazzo Dec 14 '15 at 9:22
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    @Frisbee What statistics? Based on what dataset? If you'd said something like "And, given where in the world you are, probably not even venemous", I'd trust that you were using some knowledge of that area. But just making a blanket statement that most snakes aren't venemous really isn't helpful because, while that may be true on a global scale, or in your area or whatever unstated locale you're talking about, it's not necessarily true in the area where the asker was cycling (presumably Brisbane, Australia, from their profile). – David Richerby Dec 14 '15 at 9:40
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    or otherwise run it over. - not sure there's a need for that, if the rider is not threatened, why should they kill it? Just for the sake of it? – Nobilis Dec 14 '15 at 11:26

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