Dear Miss Panniers,
There is grave danger lurking on our trails, streets, and sidewalks. It waits , obscured by overgrown blackberries, hiding in piles of leaves, ready to ambush unsuspecting cyclists. I’m talking about squirrels. They haunt my dreams. They interrupt my perfect cadence. They are driving me nuts.
Ironically, your description of squirrels is nearly identical to that used by motorists to describe the frenetic darting behavior of some cyclists. So let us first take a moment to acknowledge that unanticipated darting by any creature is harrowing to others and dangerous to the creature, be it furry or otherwise.
Unfortunately, the behavior of squirrels (and other associated Rodentia) falls just outside the jurisdiction of vehicular law, and the laws of physics. And the laws of natural selection. And common sense.
Squirrels are wired much the same as deer. BADLY. Both will freeze momentarily, giving you just enough time to alter your course, and then they will run directly into your corrected path. So not only might you squish the squirrel anyway, your sudden swerve may cause a crash with a passing car, bicycle, pedestrian, or large ditch.
The only way to completely avoid squirrels this time of year is to avoid riding. Given the luminous autumn light, fantastic fall foliage, and comfortable climate, Miss Panniers finds that an unacceptable option.
So Miss Panniers’ advice? One cannot outthink or out-maneuver a spazzy animal with a walnut-sized brain. (This also applies to reasoning with toddlers.) Better to hold your line, minimize the chances of an avoidance-related crash, and trust that the laws of traffic/physics/natural selection are on your side.