Pedaling Cowboy Style

Arie Hoogerbrugge
5 min readMar 30, 2021


I had two run-ins with herds of bison during my 2011 bike tour. The first run in was in the Northwest Territories and the second run in was in British Columbia. On August 8, 2011only a day after my last encounter with a single bison I came around a corner and across a heard of 50–60 of these large North American mammals. My first response was an out loud — “now what?”

Yesterday and almost two weeks earlier I had two very different but very memorable experiences with single bison’s that were still very fresh in my memories. But this was going to be my first herd. Clapping, yelling and hollering eventually got them moving but it simply got them moving down the road at the speed bison walk. Which is not very fast and there was just too many of them.

Fortunately, an older lady in a car came from behind me and stopped to ask how she could help. I came up with a plan to bike along side her car and behind her car for cover to help me get past the bison. The car was pretty small, I would have felt a million times safer if I had the help of a truck. But you work with what you got.

With the lady taking the lead we got the bison into a bit of trot down the road. I have to say that chasing bison at such close proximity is a bit of a rush. First, they are 100 feet ahead of you, then 60 feet and then closer and closer. And then the heard started to break up and were running along the highway on either side of me (about 15 feet on either side of me). To be honest it did not occur to me that the herd would split up. In my head the way I planned it the bison would stick together on one side of the road or the other. So, when I had bison 15 feet away from me running on either side of me….

There were a few moments where I got a bit nervous. Unfortunately, this herd had been grazing at the base of a hill. That meant I had to keep up with this lady in a car while climbing a gravel hill with a fully loaded bike. The other part was that while climbing the hill the lady gave her little car a bit of gas and she started to pull away from me. I thought I am dead and this poor lady is going to feel so guilty because I died while she was trying to help me. Luckily, she had the sense to slow down and this let the smaller herd to the left of us move forward and get a head of us. And then this allowed them to catch up with the rest of the herd to the right and then we veered left and around them.

A week later on August 14 I came across another herd of equal size in British Columbia on the Alaskan Highway. I was west of Liard Hot Spring Provincial Park on my way to Watson Lake Yukon. The only difference this time was that no one was coming to my rescue. I yelled and screamed but this herd was not interested in moving at all.

And then all of a sudden, they slowly started moving off the highway and I slowly started pulling forward. The shoulder of grass between the highway and tree line along this section of the Alaskan Highway was actually a good 20–30 feet wide. And then all of a sudden, the bison started to gallop and I took this as my cue to pull forward quickly. I was able to pick up speed quickly and it didn’t take long before I was biking along side a lot of bison. The bison herd were fairly spread out between the leader and the stragglers. All of this happened pretty quickly and then just as quickly I realized how much trouble I really was in.

Bison use the highway for protection from their predators such as wolves and bears. They can group quickly and watch their backs on the highway. The lead bison was a head of me and I had just as many bison behind me than in front of me. What would happen when the lead bison got tired or this “wide” shoulder narrowed? Surely, he would make his way back on the highway and all the other bison along side of and behind me would follow suit. That would very quickly put me literally right in the middle of a herd of stampeding bison.

When I realized that reality I very quickly started screaming and yelling at the top of my voice waving my hat and hand in the air to attempt to herd these bison forward hoping to catch up to lead bison. I swear I must have looked like a “pedallin’ cowboy” riding his bike herding his livestock. Anything to keep the lead bison off the highway. And then as quickly as the stampede started the lead bison crashed his way through the trees and the rest of the herd followed him and I was still alive. I only wish I had a GoPro to catch all the action. It was quite a rush.



Arie Hoogerbrugge

Every once in a while someone says that I have gift for writing.