By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 30, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As the weather heats up, motorcyclists are heating up their engines and taking to the roads in increasing numbers, and post officials want to make sure all motorists keep it safe out there.
The Fort Rucker Religious Support Office is helping to keep people aware of motorcycle safety through its Biker Blessing and Breakfast, which will be held on the lawn and parking lot of Wings Chapel April 8 from 8-11 a.m., where people will come for food and fellowship, but most importantly to promote safety and resiliency, according to Chaplain (Maj.) Collie Foster, 1st Aviation Brigade chaplain.
"This is an opportunity for active-duty Soldiers, retirees and civilians who are motorcycle enthusiasts to come out and have some fellowship with one another and meet some new friends," he said. "We really want to push hard for the cyclist to be aware of his or her surroundings, but also for the non-riders to be aware that the cyclist is around."
The event will feature unit safety checks to start, followed by breakfast and fellowship, with performances by the praise band. There will be a group biker blessing, followed by individual blessings --an opportunity for people to combine their motorcycle safety habits with their spiritual resiliency, said the chaplain.
"The purpose is to help promote the Motorcycle Mentorship Program, and also blend it as a resiliency-type program and the spiritual aspect into the motorcycle program we have here on Fort Rucker," he said.
The biker blessings is also an opportunity for riders to participate in a check ride if they so wish, said Foster, which will not be organized by the RSO, but those in attendance.
People are encouraged to RSVP for the event. For more information on the event or to RSVP, call 255-2723.
The main aspect of the event is to focus on safety, which is not something riders or motorists should ever take lightly, said the chaplain.
Foster, who has been riding for about 10 years, said that in his experience as a rider, he's learned that vigilance is one of the most important aspects of riding.
"I'm always scanning … and I learned not to get fixated on one point out there while riding," he said. "You've got to constantly be observing your surroundings because you never know when a car or person is going to come out. The biggest thing I've learned is being observant and I practice that while behind the wheel of a car, but even more when I ride."
Before embarking on a ride, riders must remember to take all necessary precautions, make sure they know how to operate the vehicles safely and wear the right gear, according to Rebecca Ghostley, garrison safety director, adding that it begins with protective gear.
"Riders should always wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, eye protection, gloves and over-the-ankle footwear. An armored jacket will offer additional protection," she said, "If riders are cycling at night, they should wear reflective gear," adding that shoe strings on boots should be tucked in.
Another factor for motorcyclists to be concerned with is driving defensively.
"The four deadly words are, 'I didn't see him,'" said the safety director. "Always assume that other drivers are not going to see you."
Those operating motorcycles aren't the only ones who need to be knowledgeable on motorcycle safety, said Ghostley, stressing that those who ride as passengers need to be just as knowledgeable as the drivers.
"Passengers should be dressed in the same protective gear as the driver and they need to understand the handling characteristics of a motorcycle, such as leaning," she said.
Riders should always make sure their motorcycle is in proper working condition and people should also be aware of the weather and the effects it may have on riding.
"Always check that tires are not over or under inflated and avoid riding in rough, stormy weather," said Ghostley. "If you plan on a long ride, always check the weather and try to always carry a rain suit in case you encounter an unexpected storm. Be particularly careful when it begins to rain because the rain hasn't had time to clear the oily film off the road."
"Almost half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involved riders who had consumed alcohol. Even one drink can degrade your riding skills," she added.
With temperatures on the rise, many cyclists may head to the beaches of Florida to take advantage of the beach weather. Although the state does not require cyclists to wear helmets, Army regulation does, added Ghostley.
"People are made famous for thinking, 'It's not going to happen to me.' You can be the safest rider and still be in an accident; however, you can reduce your odds of serious injury by wearing protective equipment," she said.
Ghostley also had a few tips for people who are planning to go to local beaches and rent scooters.
"Sand can cover many roads, making them slippery, thus causing the scooter to be a little harder to handle should it start sliding," she said.
People should never wear shorts or flip-flops when riding a two-wheeled vehicle, Ghostley added.
For the rest of the community who stick to four wheels instead of two, Ghostley asks them to always be on the lookout for cyclists.
"In this area we have a huge number of riders. Share the road and give riders plenty of room. Car drivers are found at fault in more than half of accidents involving motorcycles," she said.
Motorcycle safety courses are mandatory for Soldiers. There are three courses at Fort Rucker: the basic rider course, the experienced rider course and the military sport bike course. There's a regulatory requirement for all Soldiers who operate motorcycles to take the basic course. Then, within a year after taking it and every five years thereafter, riders are required to take one of the other two courses, depending on the style of bike they ride.
"We have a large number of classes available during the summer, but as soon as the weather gets warmer it will not be as easy to get into a class because they are going to fill up," said Ghostley.
Soldiers can register for the courses on-line at https://imc.army.mil/airs/Admin/Default.aspx.
For more information visit www.rucker.army.mil/newcomers/motorcycles/.