Despite winter stubbornly refusing to release its icy grip around Naval District Washington (NDW), spring is officially here with respite on the way for those people wishing for warmer weather.
With spring comes an increase in outdoor activity and a renewed call for safe transportation and recreation by military and civilian personnel dusting off their motorcycles and bicycles, as well as runners and walkers abandoning treadmills for better scenery.
Whether running, riding or driving a vehicle, safety managers remind everyone to stay alert as more people share roadways and paths, both on installations and off.
Before jumping onto a motorcycle or bicycle, however, riders should conduct a thorough pre-ride maintenance check to ensure everything is still in order after a long winter, said George Revoir Jr., Naval Support Activity (NSA) Washington safety installation program director. For new or novice riders, this includes familiarizing oneself and becoming comfortable with all the controls, he added.
“A few seconds spent in confusion with controls can spell the difference in mishap survivability,” Revoir said. “Attend a motorcycle rider safety training course. In-depth training on motorcycle safe operation has been shown to reduce mishaps and injuries to motorcycle operators.”
For new riders looking into buying a motorcycle, Revoir said to resist the urge to start out with a 1000cc sport bike, and instead start with a smaller, more manageable bike to practice with.
“Once skills and experience have grown to enable mastery of the larger, more powerful machine, you can advance up to the larger machine with the knowledge level and skill set to make you a safe, capable rider,” he said.
For both motorcycle and bicycle riders, helmets are the most basic and necessary safety equipment. All active-duty personnel are required to wear helmets at all times both on and off installations, for motorcycles as well as bicycles.
Motorcycle riders are also required to wear eye protection, sturdy over-the-ankle footwear, and protective clothing to include full-finger gloves, full-length trousers and long sleeve shirts. Abrasion resistant jackets made of leather, Kevlar, or Cordura containing impact padding and high visibility materials are highly recommended, according to the Navy Traffic Safety Program guidelines.
Cyclists are expected to wear brightly colored clothing and ride with traffic in single file, obeying the same rules as motorists. When riding at night or in times of low visibility, cyclists are required to have a white light on the front of their bike visible from 500 feet, and a red light on the back visible from 600 feet. Beyond wearing a helmet, other recommended safety gear includes protective clothing such as gloves and safety clips to prevent clothing from becoming tangled in the chain.
For patrons using the Washington Navy Yard Riverwalk, Revoir said cyclists are not permitted on the trail due to the narrow pathway that can lead to injury of both cyclists and pedestrians.
Runners and other pedestrians should use sidewalks and pathways wherever possible, and walk against traffic when along roadways. Brightly colored clothing should be worn at night or in low visibility.
“The biggest thing is being visible,” said Jim Ganz, NSA Bethesda safety manager. “You’re not running in a bubble. There are so many other things around you.”
Just as distracted driving is dangerous to motorists, Ganz said headphones and other devices used by runners and cyclists are prohibited while on installations to ensure safety.
“My advice for anybody, whether you’re civilian or military,” Ganz added, “is if the Navy traffic safety instructions say you shouldn’t do this on an installation because it’s not safe, you probably shouldn’t do it off base.”
Sharing the road means motorists need to follow some rules as well.
“Respect a motorcycle as a full-size vehicle with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway,” said Revoir.
Motorists should be aware that motorcycles are often harder to see, Revoir said, and should always allow extra following room between themselves and the rider. Vehicle drivers should check blind spots and always signal their intentions before changing lanes.
When passing bicycles, allow at least four feet of space between the vehicle and the cyclist and pass at a safe, prudent speed, Revoir said. When necessary and safe, drivers may legally cross a yellow center line to pass a bicycle.
Ganz said whether bound by regulations or not, personnel should use common sense as they get outdoors during spring to maintain safety because while someone may be legally correct during an accident, runners, cyclists and motorcyclists will still be on the wrong side of the laws of physics when dealing with traffic.
“We want to make sure that people have fun,” Ganz said. “We also want to make sure that people come back to work the next day.”
For more information on motorcycle requirements and safety courses, see your local command’s motorcycle safety representative.
For Navy regulations and safety information, visit safetycenter.navy.mil.