Even though I work in safety...

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brian Miller
  • 39th Air Base Wing Safety
Editor's note: This commentary first appeared in the Winter 2012 Air Scoop magazine, a publication of the United States Air Forces Europe Safety office.   

Do you plan to have a mishap when performing your daily activities? I sure don't have that talent or clairvoyance... do you? That is why I not only work in safety, I live it.

One sunny morning I was off to work on my bicycle, just like I do every day, using a familiar route. It was no different than any other Incirlik AB summer morning, the ambient temperature was fast on the rise with a light breeze, the birds chirping, parents getting their kids off to the school bus and folks walking their dogs on the bike path, "not the sidewalk." This has always been one of my pet peeves, sidewalks for pedestrian traffic and bike paths for commuting bicyclist. As a responsible bicyclist, I always give way to pedestrians when I'm riding.

While pedaling to my destination, I have the required operating equipment at the ready; front and rear lights along with added reflective tape strategically placed and an air horn to warn the frequent ear-bud users. I regularly wear the mandatory helmet, with an attached mirror and visor, and the prescribed ballistic eye wear protection.

As I was riding through Incirlik's Falcon housing on my way to the bike path entrance, I noticed a guy and his Husky dog walking on the bike path. Thinking it would be easier to get ahead of him rather than ride behind the much slower biped and his trusty four-legged companion, I elected to ride to the next bike path. By the time I reached my targeted entrance, so had the guy and his dog. In an aggravated and emotional based split decision, I chose to speed up and attempt to make it onto the path before these two slow-moving pedestrians crossed the entrance.

A combination of emotional blindness, speed and confidence in my riding abilities caused me to overshoot the path, experience gravities pull due to a 2 inch drop and immediately test my off road experience on a grassy surface. In an increased aggravated state, I elected to hop my front wheel over back onto the path; unfortunately, my rear wheel did not make the two inch ascent. As the bike dropped out from underneath me, I clenched the handgrips, and tensed my body and braced for impact. While my shoulder took the brunt of the blow, my cranium bounced off the concrete and I continued forward another ten feet without my bike.

Remarkably, the bike only suffered minor scratches and a cracked right pedal. After some minor first aid, I came out of the incident with a 1/4 inch cheekbone cut below my right eye and a bruised right shoulder. My protective helmet and eye wear worked as advertised. I gathered what little pride I had left and proceeded to walk my bruised body and damaged bike back home.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I reflected on how I could have altered the outcome of this preventable mishap and thought less aggressive biking would be a good place to start.

Fortunately for me, I had chosen to wear the proper protective equipment (PPE). Had I not worn the bike helmet, I would have experienced an ambulance ride and likely found out what severe head trauma surgery felt like. Without my protective eye wear, eye damage and surgery may have been the outcome.

While I planned for the normal bike commute, this mishap took less than 5 seconds to play out. Thankfully, my plan to wear PPE each and every time I ride did not fail me.