By Airman 1st Class Caleb House, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2019
Bright clothing and a helmet are worn by a cyclist. Visibility is a large factor of bicycle safety and should be considered at any time of day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Bicycling is a healthy alternative to commuting by car. It provides an aerobic workout that builds muscle. Though being on two wheels does carry some risks.
According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, in 2014 alone there were over 18,000 bicycle accidents in Italy. In 2015, at least 45 cyclists per day were involved in accidents. There were 525 deaths in those two years.
To limit the risk of cars striking riders due to a lack of visibility, Air Force Instruction 91-207 (The U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program) mandates that those who plan to cycle will:
Wear highly visible outer garment containing retro-reflective material during hours of darkness or reduced visibility. Riders are recommended to wear a highly visible outer garment during daylight hours.
No matter how visible a rider makes themselves, they are still at risk of being involved in an accident, whether caused by themselves or another person. The cycler must be vigilant and make safety the number one priority.
It’s required by AFI 91-207 to properly wear a bicycle helmet. The helmet must meet the standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, American National Standards Institute, or equivalent whether stateside or overseas.
“You’re only as good as your worst driver,” said Master Sgt. David Mace, an occupational safety manager from the 31st Fighter Wing Safety Office. “Personal protective equipment isn’t necessarily to protect you from yourself but also to protect you from other people.”
Bicycles are required to have front-facing, pedal, side and rear-facing reflectors. The reflectors must meet the standards of 16 Code of Federal Regulation part 1512 and/or the local, state, or overseas requirements. Cyclers will use designated bike lanes when available.
Not only are reflectors required but lights on the front and rear of the bicycle are mandated by law during hours of darkness.
“It’s so dark out here, especially in Italy,” said Mace. “So if you’re out there and it’s nighttime, it’s super dark. I’ve actually been riding at nighttime and my batteries went dead. It was horrible.”
It is also stated within the AFI that:
The use of portable headphones, earphones, cellular phones, or other listening and entertainment devices (other than hearing aids) while walking, jogging, running, bicycling, skating or skateboarding on roadways is prohibited. Use of listening devices impairs recognition of emergency signals, alarms, announcements, approaching vehicles, human speech, and outside noise in general.
“You may not even see [emergency vehicles] because you’re too busy rocking out,” said Mace.
Italian law requires that bicycles be equipped with a bell. Also, a reflective vest is required during night riding or while riding through tunnels or lowly lit streets.
Accidents can happen out of nowhere and that is why safety is paramount when riding bicycles. Proper maintenance of a bicycle and the correct protective equipment should be at the top of a safe cyclist’s checklist. When it comes to preventing accidents, readiness is a necessity.