ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Staying alert and avoiding unnecessary distractions is critical for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

"I see too many people walking through parking lots focused on their telephones, talking, reading or sending texts," said Ronald Kravitz of the Installation Safety Office. "It is the responsibility of bicyclists and pedestrians to stay alert."

Kravitz said cyclists and pedestrians need to be able to hear everything on the road at all times, and noted that it is illegal to wear headphones on DoD installations, while walking, cycling and driving.

He said accidents can happen when bicyclists and motorists both think they have the right of way. Maryland law states that the driver of a vehicle must pass and yield to a cyclist at a distance of three feet.

"Basically bicyclists have to obey the same laws as motor vehicles," he said. "This means that bicyclists should obey all traffic signs, use hand signals when turning and yield to traffic when the cars have the right of way."

Parking lots

He said pedestrians should also be extremely cautious when walking through parking lots, and bicyclists should avoid parking lots, if possible.

"You should assume that no one is looking," said Kravitz. "People are preoccupied with finding a space or getting home, so situational awareness is low. Remember that most parking lots are intrinsically unsafe and the design of the parking lot never takes the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists into account."

Kravitz said if a cyclist must ride through a parking lot, they should do so slowly and defensively.

"A parking lot is one of the few places that a person riding a bicycle could travel faster than automobiles," he said. "Resist the temptation and don't do it. Assume that cars may not stop and may cut you off if there's an open space."

Kravitz said bicycling on sidewalks should be avoided at all times.

"Sidewalks are for pedestrians," he said. "A bicyclist might be traveling too fast for the pedestrian to react in time to avoid a collision. Only kids on tricycles and children too young to be riding in the street should be on sidewalks and then under their parent's close supervision."
Reflective gear

In addition, APG policy requires bicyclists to wear a brightly reflective belt worn diagonally over the right shoulder and down under the left arm or an orange, green or yellow vest during the day and at night.

It is also DoD and APG policy for all bicyclists riding on DoD installations to wear approved and properly secured helmets.

Mary Arthur of the Army Research Laboratory uses a fold-up bicycle to commute from the Aberdeen train station to work. She said she would like to see APG become more bike friendly, including expanding the road for wider shoulders or bike lanes.

Arthur said cyclists are allowed to use the full lane, when the roads are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side-by-side in the same lane.

"When I bike, I always know the laws of the road," she said. "I would tell motorists to be patient. We have a right to use the road."

Bike traffic up

Arthur said that over the past year she has observed an increase of APG employees taking the MARC train to Aberdeen and then biking or running to work.

"We have become more visible," she said. "People want to save money by taking advantage of the mass transit subsidy for government workers. I think you will see more people biking to work in the future."

Mark Downes, an Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity employee who bikes to work at least once a week, recommends that pedestrians treat bicyclists like they would a car.

Pedestrians will see bicycles and not get out of the way," he said. "But a collision between a pedestrian and a bicycle can be very serious. Pedestrians need to watch out for cars and bicycles."

Downes also recommended that cyclists wear bright colors, no matter where they are ridding.

"The more chances a car can see you, the better," he said.

For more information about bicycle safety, visit the APG Installation Safety Office website, http://www.apg.army.mil/apghome/sites/installation/iso/.