Share the road safely

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Winter is starting to come to an end and with it, more people are choosing to ride bicycles to work.

To protect the safety of everyone on the road, Goodfellow Air Force Base has strict policies governing the use of bicycles on base.

According to GAFB Instruction 31-204, Air Force Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision document, bicyclists have the same privileges and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists are also cited for violations of the Goodfellow Driving Code and all moving traffic offenses listed in AFI 31-204, Table 5.2, just as if they were operating a motor vehicle.

These responsibilities include the education and training of juvenile riders, which means parents can be cited for offences committed by their children. For repeat offenses, this can even include revocation of the parent's driving privileges on base.

Bicyclists are not allowed to ride on a pedestrian sidewalk, troop walk, running track or tennis court; essentially bicyclists can ride only in the areas where a motorist can drive.

Functional rear reflectors and headlight are required for bicycles. Riders must wear a reflective or high visibility outer garment during hours of reduced visibility and must wear a helmet at all times.

Just like with walking on base, wearing headphones or ear buds while riding a bicycle is prohibited.

Bicyclists are also expected to ride with the flow of traffic and obey all traffic signs and signals.

The only exception made to these rules is for 17th Security Forces Squadron bicycle patrols. The bicycles, while used on official business, are considered emergency vehicles and must be treated as such.

Chief Master Sgt. Nick Boduch, 17th Communications Squadron superintendent, has been riding his bicycle to work for nearly 20 years and said following the rules and maintaining situational awareness can save lives.

"Follow the rules of the road," Boduch said. "I remember when I was younger I thought I couldn't get hurt; it wouldn't happen to me and sometimes I didn't follow the rules like I should have. I learned the hard way. I've had broken bones, cracked teeth and numerous cuts and scratches."

More than 15 years ago, Boduch said he was riding his bicycle home at night and moving too fast. He encountered an unseen slick spot on the road and tried to use the brakes on his handlebars, but they failed. The wheels didn't have enough traction to stop. He lost control of the bicycle and hit a wall head first.

"My teeth were damaged enough that they had to be pulled," he added. "I learned a personal lesson that night. In addition to following the rules, a bicyclist needs to be highly observant of his surroundings. If I had been paying more attention, I might not have been injured. I sincerely hope other riders learn from my mistake."

Even on the road, a bicyclist must be cautious and alert for hazards as well as traffic. For example, while completely safe for a motor vehicle, horizontal grates crossing the roads for drainage purposes can pose a danger to bicyclists. A bicycle's thinner wheels can become caught in between the grates, causing it to immediately stop.

Whether driving a motor vehicle, riding a bicycle or walking, remember to always share the road and maintain awareness.