It’s that time of year. Temperatures drop and around-the-clock needs for air conditioning evaporate into the fading memory of summer. Many Arizonans trade horse power for human power – the kind driven by two legs and two wheels.
But what are the rules for riding on Luke Air Force Base and how can you stay safe doing it? Those who monitor and enforce the rules on base say though most bicyclists on base are riding safely, there are a few areas they want to highlight.
“If you’re on the road, even if you’re in the bike lane, you have to abide by the same rules cars do,” said Brian Martin, 56th Security Forces Squadron plans manager, who coordinated having the Luke rules written. “They have to stop at stop signs and we don’t see that happen often. Riders shoot through the stop signs when they don’t see cars.”
According to the regulations, bicyclists should ride on the sidewalks or bike paths if available with the direction of traffic and follow the rules of the sidewalk as if a pedestrian, which means stopping at intersections for oncoming cars.
“We also don’t see people having or wearing the right gear so they can be seen, such as lights on the front of the bicycle when it’s dark, bright-colored shirts for daytime or reflective gear for night,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Dulworth, 56th Security Forces Squadron Police Services NCO-in-charge. “The bright-colored shirt or reflective gear is supposed to be the size of a vest; a physical training belt isn’t big enough.”
Helmets are another key for safety according to Martin, Dulworth and Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing Ground Safety manager.
“Most of the things bicyclists are doing right are the things we’re concerned about, which is wearing a helmet, because that’s the best protection you can have,” Bruce said. “The biggest concern with bicycles is that people should operate a bike as if it’s a motor vehicle, following all the traffic rules. You always want to place yourself in a position where you’re visible. You don’t want to blend in. That’s why wearing bright clothing is so important. Your best defense is being seen when you’re near traffic.”
According to Bruce, statistics show Luke bicyclists have been safe lately, but that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen on base. Martin has spent 26 years working with Air Force security forces, 14 of those years are at Luke and remembers one accident well.
“Before 2001 we didn’t have gates to family housing near Ocotillo,” Martin said. “A boy around 10 years old wasn’t wearing a helmet and fell off his bike, cracked his head, had brain swelling and needed surgery.”
At least one member of the Air Force has been killed each of the last three years on bicycles. Last year in Arizona, 18 people were killed and 1,750 were hurt, many of whom were hit by cars in traffic, Bruce said. Once riders leave base, the rules may not be the same either. In Arizona for example, helmets are only required until age 18 off base and high-visibility clothing isn’t required. However, having lights and reflectors on bikes is the same on and off base
Rules for the road
Courtesy of 56th Security Forces Squadron, Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision regulation
• Bike helmets are required and will be properly fastened and approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, American National Standards Institute, Snell Memorial Foundation or any official bike helmet approving authority.
• Bikes will ride with traffic on available sidewalks or bike paths if available. Bicyclists on roads riding less than the normal speed of traffic will ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, unless passing another bicycle, preparing for a left turn or to avoid hazards.
• Riders on roads or sidewalks will follow the same traffic laws as cars. They will ride with traffic and must stop at stop lights, stop signs and make turn signals with their arms to show they’re turning.
• Headphones for MP3 players, iPods, iPhones or Androids will not be worn while riding a bike. It reduces the rider’s ability to interact with traffic and hear warnings from nearby vehicles.
• Two hands need to be on the handlebars at all times unless making a turn signal.
• Every bicycle used at night will have a lamp on the front, which emits a white light visible 500 feet away with a red reflector on the back of the bike visible a minimum of 300 feet. A red-light lamp on the back of the bike may be used in addition to, but not in lieu of, the red reflector and must be visible a minimum of 500 feet.
• During the day, riders are required to wear a brightly-colored shirt or vest, while at night they are to wear a reflective vest, jacket or outer garment containing retro-reflective material. A physical-training reflective belt doesn’t meet this requirement.
• Bike riders will not carry packages, bundles or articles, which prevent the rider from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
• No bicycle rider will cling to or attach themselves to another vehicle on a roadway.