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Cover Your Cranium

Cover Your Cranium
STEVE RAMKE
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital
Fort Polk, Louisiana


“I have to wear what?” That’s what I said the first time I was told I had to wear a bicycle helmet while riding off duty. I complained to my commander, first sergeant and anyone else who would listen. I even questioned the commander about the new requirement written into regulations that required me to wear a helmet. After all, I had been riding a bike since I was 6 years old. Now in my 30s, I was invincible and nothing was going to happen to me while riding my bike.

Well, my complaining fell on deaf ears. Like a good sergeant, I complied with orders. I bought helmets for my family and myself and begrudgingly started wearing mine when I rode. Little did I know that just a few months later that helmet would keep me from suffering a serious head injury.

It was a nice day in Abilene, Texas. The wind was calm, the sun was shining and I didn’t have to report for duty until 4 p.m. for the swing shift. I decided to do a little extra PT that day, and a good bike ride seemed to be just the ticket. I checked the air in my tires, grabbed my helmet and hit the road. I was nearing the end of my ride when it happened.

First, I heard a pop. Next thing I knew, I was on my back and my head slammed onto the asphalt. My vision quickly dimmed, but I was brought back to my senses when my bicycle crashed back down upon my chest and face. What happened? Was I OK? Did I break anything? As I lay in the road asking myself those questions, I realized I should probably move before I got run over by a car.

Wow, my head hurt! Getting up slowly, I looked for what caused me to take a spill. As I inspected my bike, I discovered that metal fatigue in my left pedal caused it to snap off. When that happened, I rolled off my bike while traveling at a pretty decent speed. What I thought would never happen to me actually did.

Brushing myself off, I removed my helmet. That’s when I realized how lucky I was to be wearing it. The back of my helmet literally slammed into the asphalt. I had three 4-inch cracks in the back of the helmet and one 3-inch crack in the side of it. I can only imagine the damage my head would have sustained had I not been wearing a helmet. I immediately reported to the post hospital, where I was diagnosed with a possible mild concussion.

Looking back, I did some things right and wrong that day. What I did right was I wore my helmet and checked my tires before I rode. The main thing I did wrong was I did not take the time to perform a good inspection on my bicycle. If I had taken a closer look at the overall condition of my bike, I may have caught the fault in the pedal and prevented the pain I suffered.

So, I have to wear what? A bike helmet, that’s what! And believe me; I’ll never complain about it again.


Road Rules

Wearing a properly fitted helmet isn’t the only precaution bicyclists should take when riding. Before hitting the road on your bike, keep in mind the following safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

• See and be seen. No matter the time of day, you need to be seen by others. Wearing white has not been shown to make you more visible. Rather, always wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors when riding day or night. Also wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or flashing lights. Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you.

• Go with the flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the traffic flow — not against it.

• Obey all traffic laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re the driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals and lane markings.

• Yield to traffic when appropriate. Almost always, riders on a smaller road must yield for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.

• Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.

• Stay alert at all times. Use your eyes and ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations, so don’t wear ear buds or headphones when you ride.

• Look before turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic and then signal well before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.

• Watch for parked cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked vehicles such as doors opening or cars pulling out.


Did You Know?

May is National Bike Month. The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike to Work Week 2017 May 15-19 and Bike to Work Day Friday, May 19.


FYI

According to Army Regulation 385-10, when bicycling on Department of Defense installation roadways during hours of darkness or reduced visibility, bicycles will be equipped with operable head and taillights, and the bicyclist will wear a reflective upper outer garment. For more information about bicycle helmets and state laws, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute website at http://www.helmets.org/index.htm

  • 14 May 2017
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1119
  • Comments: 0
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