I know that driving at dusk in wooded or otherwise open areas greatly increses your risk of collision with an animal, whether that is a deer or other wildlife. I would like to know if when cycling at speed this is something I should keep an eye out for. Have there been instances where a cyclist on a road has collided with a large animal?

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    Check out this attack youtube.com/watch?v=mxFIX0oPTso – paparazzo Dec 17 '15 at 20:47
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    It happens. I ran into a chicken once. (Didn't stop to ask why it had crossed the road right in front of me.) I've has other cyclists tell of hitting deer. And hitting a turtle on a bike path is a nontrivial hazard in some areas around here. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 17 '15 at 22:20
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    Here in the UK I watched someone texting while cycling, and cycle straight into a cow and proceed to flip over the top of the cow. This was in broad daylight on a cycle path. Dusk or daytime, the motto is pay attention! – dr.blochwave Dec 17 '15 at 23:27
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    Depends on where you are. The only general answer I can give you: learn about the animals in your area, and how to deal with them. And stay alert at all times. – Mike Baranczak Dec 18 '15 at 23:18
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    As a general statement, beware of dogs. Many dogs will want to run along and snap at you, and not only can they take a bite out of your ankle, they may also attempt to take a bite out of your wheel, sending you both flying. Most dogs are reasonably well-behaved, but some are quite dangerous. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 18 '15 at 23:35

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Sure, there have been cases of hitting an animal in the day or night. Here is an article of a cyclist being attacked by a moose, for example. In addition, you need to worry about road hazards since you won't see them as early.

Obviously, the amount of hazard depends on the particular location, but you should have good lighting and reflective gear at night as well as be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary. If the area is known to have hazards, it may be advisable to go a little slower so you can stop quicker if needed.

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    Actually fairly common here. I've nearly hit a moose while downhilling before. In fact, I'd say moose are the largest hazard while riding in the woods here. The moose do not seems to respect any lights or reflectors that I wear. I do find that roman candles work well to shoo them away. – Deleted User Dec 17 '15 at 17:55
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    Also it's not just at night you need to worry about. youtube.com/watch?v=txuKW7T47QE – Deleted User Dec 17 '15 at 17:59
  • Even a collision with a normal domestic cat can result in serious injury! – Carel Dec 17 '15 at 18:28
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    @SuspendedUser don't forget, the only animals with headlights are humans so reflective gear isn't much use. It's generally retro-reflective so isn't going to reflect ambient light on their direction either. High vis isn't necessarily obvious to animals (depending on their colour vision of they have any). There may be some benefit in not being too quiet - in making an unmistakeably human noise. – Chris H Dec 17 '15 at 19:59
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    @SuspendedUser - Roman candles? Trying to start a forest fire? – Rider_X Dec 17 '15 at 20:02

I've been hit by a kangaroo, luckily a small one, while touring. Roos are not well adapted to wheels, their movement pattern is to hop in a straight line for a while then swerve, and they flee the same way. One bounded along next to me for a few seconds, realised it couldn't get past me, then swerved across behind me, hitting my pannier with its head. Luckily I stayed upright. In retrospect I should have hit the brakes as soon as I knew it was there but at the time I went "wow, a kangaroo! Hey, WTF" because it all happened that quickly.

Fortunately most large animals move more slowly than that and are better adapted to wheeled traffic. With large herbivores they occasionally panic and bolt across in front of you but rarely try to attack you (Batman's answer has a counter-example). In that case slowing down and being alert is your best defence. If something big decides to run through you, drop the bike and get out of the way.

But there's no excuse for going so fast with so little visibility that you hit one of them. If you'd hit a cow, you'd hit a brick wall. Or a fallen tree. That's just dumb. These days you can buy ridiculously powerful lights with good runtime, so if you're going to be riding fast in low light, buy one. Better, buy two so when one fails you don't have to walk home. It's just part of the cost of riding at night.

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    It should be noted that horses are another hazard. Most horses that one might encounter out on a road or bike path are well-acclimated to wheeled traffic, so long as you make your presence known well in advance, but some are not, and will bolt at the sight of a bicycle. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 17 '15 at 22:23
  • Good point, horses are more common than moose for most people. But similar in that respect. – Móż Dec 17 '15 at 22:38

I have run over chipmunks 4 or 5 times, and hit deer twice in my rides on country bike trails. The deer caused the crashes both times, but neither I, the deer, or my bike was hurt. In both deer crashes I had some time (but not enough) to brake. Both deer crashes happened during the day.

I'm very wary of deer now- they are incredibly stupid and simply don't understand bikes. When I see one I slow down and stop if it crosses the trail in front of me. (They virtually always travel in groups of 2 or more- see one and look out for the ones you don't see.)

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  • Deer can be pretty stupid around cars too. And I've had geese head for the water to avoid me even though that meant crossing (running) right in front of me rather than staying out of the way the other side of the path. – Chris H Dec 18 '15 at 16:59
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    @ChrisH - That's true of many animals -- they will bolt to what they perceive as a "safer" place when you approach, even though it means bolting across the road or bike path. Especially if you encounter a bunch of fowl on both sides of the road, assume that someone is going to do something stupid (and hope it isn't you). – Daniel R Hicks Dec 18 '15 at 17:26
  • I've hit a Canada Goose too. But it was attacking me on the trail. My best hiss didn't scare that one. – Gary E Dec 18 '15 at 21:37
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    Canada Goose: The one canadian thing (other than Wolverine) that's just not sorry. – Batman Dec 24 '15 at 22:41

Not really a full answer but I can't post pictures in a comment.

Imagine stomping along a darkened rural road at your top speed, and running into this unyeilding mass of sheep flesh.

Its totally possible for any domesticated animal to get out of their paddock and stand in the road - they're a bit stupid mostly.

Herd of sheep

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  • (the flock of sheep, not the ute or the light truck in front) – Criggie Jan 22 '16 at 20:58

Potentially more dangerous than hitting an animal is swerving to avoid hitting the animal and going off-road and crashing.

This often causes significant damage to the bike and rider -- sometimes even more damage than if you had hit the animal in the first place.

However, it does help with your overall karma to not unnecessarily kill animals.

Fine print 1: I wish there were a way to not have to eat as many bugs as I do in the summer.

Fine print 2:A close friend in college swerved in his car to miss an animal and drove off the road, flipped his car and died. While I love animals, I would love to have him still in the world.

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  • Unfortunately people also die by not swerving and having a moose or kangaroo come through the windscreen. At least in Australia the rule is not to drive at dawn or dusk when animals are active, and be careful driving at night because wombats are small, nocturnal but very solid - something the size of a corgi can throw a small truck into the ditch if it goes under a wheel. – Móż Dec 17 '15 at 20:49
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    Moose and kangaroos are particularly dangerous to automobiles because they'll go through your windshield, which is an unprotected area in non-MadMax-ified cars. I think the jury is out as to whether it's better to hit a kangaroo/moose on a bicycle or to go off-trail and hit a tree or go off a ravine or into a ditch. – RoboKaren Dec 17 '15 at 20:50
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    I think you'd be doing very well to actually hit a kangaroo on a bike, they're normally very flighty and you're more likely to be hit by one than hit it, if you surprise it. Normally cars hit them when the roo either tries to jump across the road in front of them and misjudges their speed, or they're bouncing along the side of the road, hear the car and do the "boing boing boing swerve" thing, and the swerve takes them in front of the car. – Móż Dec 17 '15 at 20:55
  • I know of 2 cases (UK) of serious injury caused by hitting badgers. One was in a car but the other on a motorbike. They're not huge but they are tough. The effect will be similar to @Mσᶎ's wombats. – Chris H Dec 18 '15 at 16:57

Just 2 weeks ago I hit a deer on a night ride. I was headed down hill at a little over 25 miles an hour when it ran out from behind some bushes. I didn't even have time to hit the brakes before impact. I flew over the handlebars, rolled twice, then slid another 15 feet on asphalt. Luckily my heavy winter gear protected most of my skin. I walked away with only relatively minor road rash and a sprained wrist. I consider myself incredibly lucky. Almost every piece of clothing I was wearing was shredded though, and the bike needs to spend some time in the shop.

So yeah, watch out for those animals.

The Strava track for anyone interested. https://www.strava.com/activities/446934189

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  • 46 km/h to 0, over 10 seconds. Accounting for strava's general lagginess thats pretty much a brick-wall stop. You did well to come off so lightly. – Criggie Dec 23 '15 at 7:32
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    Did you hit the deer or did you swerve and hit something else? (p.s. I'm glad you're mostly ok) – RoboKaren Dec 24 '15 at 23:54
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    I hit it square in the side. Like I mentioned, there was no time for any evasive maneuvers, breaking, swerving, or otherwise. A little bit faster on my part and the deer would have actually run in to my side. – Bradley Uffner Dec 25 '15 at 2:30

Dead animals on the road in the dark are my primary concern, but mileage varies. Dogs, snakes, and deer are the most common ones I see.

Dogs are most concerning as they will sometimes give chase. I've read that dogs can determine an intersect point between a moving object and them, but they cannot adjust very well to something which suddenly alters it's speed. The advice I've read, if chased by a dog, is to maintain a speed, and then accelerate when the dog and the cyclist are about to make contact. The cyclist will be just outside the dogs reach, and the dog won't be able to adjust.

Snakes around here are mostly harmless and small, but I prefer not to kill living things if I can avoid it. In other areas, there are any number of venomous snakes, and riding one over is a good way to encourage a snake to strike one.

Deer are disconcerting because they really aren't afraid of cyclists and seem not to understand what I am. I have seen video and read accounts of deer striking and mountain lions attacking cyclists and knocking them off their ride. Any large animal could easily knock one over and cause harm. Predatory ones, especially big cats, could prove the most dangerous as a cyclist tends to resemble fleeing prey.

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Absolutely it happens - and its not just night time. The Bastard is a wonderful downhill road where I've done 60 km/h and good cyclists can hit 75-80 km/h.

The sheep was in the road, and the rider went around its head-end. Sheep being stupid walked/ran forward straight into the path of the cyclist.

So for sheep, go around the back-end. This rule of thumb may not apply to other animals.

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Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/75848198/christchurch-mans-bike-snapped-in-half-after-highspeed-collision-with-sheep

On the plus side, he lived, the sheep ran away, and now he's got the start of a folding bike project.

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Yes, definitely, when cycling in the country in wooded or otherwise open areas you should watch out for wildlife. Not only wildlife that might get in your way but wildlife that might attack you. This applies in the In the city too.

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  • This isn't an answer to the question. Consider making statements like this as comments to the original question instead. – Criggie Dec 23 '15 at 6:33
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    @Criggie from the guy whoOhNevermind. It's a fine answer. Cyclists need to watch out for animals on all roads. The danger is not limited to "the country" whatever that means. – jqning Dec 23 '15 at 6:37
  • comments are not for extended discussion. Feel free to join the Velodrome chat room. I'm curious to explore this further. – Criggie Dec 23 '15 at 7:29
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – Benedikt Bauer Dec 23 '15 at 10:20
  • @BenediktBauer thanks for the feedback, answer edited. – jqning Dec 23 '15 at 15:01

I'd say riding near any wooded area can be extremely hazardous, though usually only at night.

Just last night while heading home, a raccoon was on the opposite side of the trail, and I suppose it tried to attack me. (Mother "defending" youth perhaps.)

Either way, I was flying at about 40mph. It hit the front wheel as I tried to swerve away, was thrown downwards below the wheel and practically halved. I, however, was flipped while swerving, landing on my back and sliding on pavement for 20 feet. Ow. Luckily a family heard my furious strings of profanity and brought me in to clean the gashes and fix the bike up.

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    40 MPH in the dark on a trail is a bit reckless. Ride to the conditions, and if its dark do have "ample lighting" – Criggie Jul 1 '17 at 1:02

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