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Be aware of bike rules on base

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt staff writer
photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Master Sgt. Clayton Fox, superintendent, 6th Air Mobility Wing plans, rides his bike to work most days.

It was almost dark when he remembered he needed to pick up some starch from the Base Exchange. It had been a beautiful day and the temperature was still in the 70's, so he decided to enjoy the fall weather by riding his bike instead of driving. Since it was going to be such a nice ride, he decided there was no need to grab his pads or helmet. Besides, it was only a couple miles there and back.

As he rounded the corner and pulled up to the stop sign, he was careful to come to a full stop before pedaling into the intersection. As he stood up on his right pedal to get the bike moving again, he saw the dark blue truck approaching in the east-bound lane. It was too late when the driver saw him and slammed on the brakes. The metal-on-metal scream of the bike being crushed filled his ears as he bounced off the hood and landed 30 feet away.

The paramedics were amazed he survived such a devastating crash. He was unconscious as they loaded him into the ambulance and they reminded each other that accidents like this were the reason helmets are so important. He could easily have been killed.

About 800 bicyclists die in the United States every year, and about 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries. Florida ranks in the top four states for bicycle deaths in 2000.

With those kind of statistics, it is paramount that bicyclists are aware of the risks and regulations here on base.

Jason Jackson, ground safety manager at the 6th Air Mobility Wing, said the laws on base are derived directly from Florida state law and Air Force Instruction 91-207, U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program.

He said some of the bicycle safety rules at Macdill include:

* Personnel (including dependents, contractors, retirees, etc.) who ride a bicycle on an installation must wear an approved (ANSI or SNF) bicycle helmet.

* Workers operating bicycles in areas that require the use of ANSI-approved helmets (hardhats) for protection from falling objects are allowed to use those helmets instead of the approved bicycle helmets.

* Base personnel (including dependents, contractors, retirees, etc.) are subject to state traffic laws.

* Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front with a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front, and a lamp and reflector on the rear with a red light visible from at least 600 feet to the rear.

"This applies to everybody who comes through our gate riding a bicycle on base," said Jackson. "That's all military and civilian employees, all dependents, all retirees and all contractors."

Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute in Arlington, Va., said bicyclists admitted to the hospital with head injuries are 20 times more likely to die than those with any other type. He said helmets can prevent up to 88 percent of cyclists' brain injuries.

Swart said as long as they are fitted securely and buckled when you crash, helmets work very well.

However, many helmet users are not securing their helmets level on the head and adjusting the straps carefully. Those cute kids with helmets tilted back have their big, bare foreheads right out there ready to crack. A helmet has to be fitted carefully to do its work, Swart said.

Jackson said the typical discount store price for an ANSI approved helmet is about $15, but can range up to $40 at bicycle specialty stores.

The most important thing for people riding a bicycle at Macdill to remember is that they are considered another vehicle on the road and need to take the necessary precautions.

"Always be aware of the vehicular traffic around you," said Jackson. "It's just like in a car; you always need to look out for the other person."




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