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Safe bicyclists practice common sense

By Jewell Hicks | 502nd Air Base Wing Chief of Safety | Nov. 20, 2012

Joint Base San Antonio — The San Antonio area enjoys some great weather year round. This means more riding days for those who like to ride their bicycles for pleasure or conserving fuel.

Unfortunately, with the additional riding time comes the potential for additional risk of injury in a mishap.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries each year.

In most states, including Texas, bicycles are considered a vehicle when operating on roadways and bicyclists must follow the same rules as any other vehicle operator.

Safety personnel have been advised of occasions where people are riding bicycles in the opposite direction of traffic, which is not only unsafe but is also against the law.

Other bicyclist behaviors that can lead to injuries are not wearing a bicycle helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, and running a stop sign.

Bicycle riders are sharing the road with vehicles weighing thousands of pounds more than they do and if a cyclist tangles with an automobile, there is no guess work on who goes to the emergency room.

Riding a bicycle is great for relaxation, and fun but certainly not something to be taken lightly.

Bicycles are the smallest vehicles on the roadway though cyclists have the same rights as motor vehicle operators; cyclists also have a responsibility to maintain situational awareness to keep from getting themselves into a bad situation.

Since bicycle riders are not surrounded by a steel cage like an automobile, their personal actions in traffic and wearing proper protective equipment can become simple but effective life savers.

See and be seen. The recent time change means less visibility for all operators.

Whether daytime, dawn, dusk, foul weather, or at night, you need to be seen by others - particularly vehicles.
AFI 91-207, US Air Force Traffic Safety Program specifically requires that during the hours of darkness, riders will wear a retro-reflective vest/jacket or outer garment containing retro-reflective material.

Bottom-line - make yourself as visible as possible and remember that just because you have a driver in sight does not necessarily mean they see you.

When riding at night, the traffic safety instruction also requires a front lamp emitting a light that can be seen from a distance of 500 feet and a rear reflector that can be seen for a distance of at least 300 feet.

Wear a helmet - head injuries are ordinarily the most serious type of bicycle injuries.

AFI 91-207 requires all persons who ride a bicycle, tricycle, or other human powered vehicle, including motorized bicycles on Air Force installations in a traffic environment to wear a properly fastened and approved (e.g., Consumer Product Safety Commission, ANSI, Snell Memorial Foundation) bicycle helmet.

Bicyclists should have their hands on the handlebars and be focused on the task at hand. This means not hand-carrying any packages, bundles, or objects which will interfere with the safe operation of the bicycle.

Traffic safety instruction prohibits the wearing of portable headphones, earphones, cellular phones, or other listening and entertainment devices while walking, jogging, running, bicycling, skating or skateboarding on roadways.
Perhaps the most important rule of bicycle safety is to use "common" sense.

For more information, refer to Air Force Instruction 91-207, Air Force Traffic Safety Program.
For Texas bicycle requirements visit www.biketexas.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=64.
A video on safe bicycling around San Antonio is available at www.sanantonio.gov/oep/sabikes/safetyEd.aspx.