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Biker Blessing promotes fellowship

Riders exit out of the motorcycle safety course training area during a SHARP motorcycle ride to promote awareness against sexual assault and harassment last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Riders exit out of the motorcycle safety course training area during a SHARP motorcycle ride to promote awareness against sexual assault and harassment last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: March 31, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 31, 2016) -- With weather warming up, more motorcyclists are taking to the road for both transportation and leisure, so post officials want to make sure all motorists are playing it safe when it comes to their two-wheeled brethren.

One way Fort Rucker and the religious support office is helping to keep people aware of motorcycle safety is through the Biker Blessing and Breakfast, which will be held on the lawn and parking lot at Wings Chapel April 9 from 8-11 a.m.

“We just want to give Soldiers, retirees, veterans and civilians a place to get together for some fellowship with other motorcycle enthusiasts,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jim Mitchem, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Brigade, adding that the congregation is an opportunity for people to combine their motorcycle safety habits with their spiritual resiliency.

The event will begin in the parking lot where units and individuals will conduct safety checks on their bikes, followed by breakfast and fellowship with music and the group blessing by a guest speaker. After the blessing, riders who wish to have individual blessings or anointing will be directed to ride their bikes through the drive in front of the chapel, said Mitchem.

If enough riders participate, the gathering may be an opportunity for riders to participate in a check ride if they so wish, which isn’t organized by the RSO, but those in attendance, added the chaplain.

People are encouraged to RSVP for the event. For more information on the event or to RSVP, call 255-2723.

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, said Rebecca Ghostley, garrison safety director, adding that it begins with protective gear.

“If riders are cycling at night, they should wear reflective gear, and they 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, 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 now with summer in full swing, people should also be aware of strong storms throughout the season.

“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.

Storms aren’t the only things that summer brings. Many cyclists are heading to the beaches of Florida to take advantage of the beach weather. And 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 www.apps.imcom.army.mil/AIRS/default.aspx.

For more information visit www.rucker.army.mil/newcomers/motorcycles.html.

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