For the third year in a row, the Myrtle Beach traffic loop will be back in effect at the Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival. Commonly know as “Bikefest,” the annual holiday weekend event officially runs from Friday to Monday and sees thousands upon thousands of visitors, thundering into town on motorcycles.
Typically during the holiday weekend teeming with bikers and other visitors, U.S. 501 and other roads congeal at times with traffic trying to get into the thumping, party promise land of Myrtle Beach. Traffic is always a challenge, even once you arrive into town. In an effort to prevent the nightmarish gridlock, the Myrtle Beach traffic loop was created, and operates during certain hours.
In 2015, the year of the loop’s inception, traffic crawled at a slow pace, creating a jam that kept motorists trapped for hours. Last year, traffic moved more steadily, possibly because of loop adjustments and crowds that might have been diminished by a tropical storm.
While there are some exit points along the way of the horse head-shaped path, once you’re inside the loop you could be there for some time, so preparation is always a good idea. Here’s some helpful information to know as you travel this weekend:
Loop travel breakdown
Spanning 23 miles and operating from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the loop begins at 29th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, then moves south to Kings Highway near the Myrtle Beach airport, then up Harrelson Boulevard to U.S. 501, onto northbound U.S. 31, down southbound George Bishop Parkway, onto 29th Avenue North, and back onto Ocean Boulevard. Also, from May 26 to 30, all traffic on Ocean Boulevard from 29th Avenue North to South Kings Highway will be southbound, with northbound lanes reserved for emergency vehicles, according to a post on the city of Myrtle Beach’s website.
While it’s commonly called a loop, it’s not a never-ending circle. Exits on the loop are at U.S. 501 and S.C. 31.
Drivers out of the loop are mostly able to navigate freely and will not get stuck in the loop as long as they do not turn onto eastbound 29th Avenue North or westbound Harrelson Boulevard. If they do, the next exit points again, are at U.S. 501 and U.S. 31.
Barricades do separate motorist and pedestrians along Ocean Boulevard, but driveways to hotels along the boulevard won’t be blocked.
This year, taxis and rideshare drivers with an Uber or Lyft sticker on their cars will be allowed to enter the airport when moving westbound on Harrelson Boulevard, while other cars will have to keep moving.
Bathrooms, food, drinks, and other necessities
Access to things like bathrooms, food and drinks are limited along the loop path, so it’s best to take care of business before you go. You don’t know what kind of slowdowns you could face, so it’s a good idea to pack snacks, something to quench your ever-drying throat, and any medications you may need.
Just be mindful of the amount you’re consuming, because remember that first part about the bathrooms.
Go in gassed up
Make sure your tank is full in case you experience delays. There aren’t many gas stations along the loop.
The last thing you want is to run out along the way, making your night miserable, and creating a traffic tangle in the loop, so check your gas and make sure your stores are stocked before getting into the loop.
Patience, patience, patience
It’s said that patience is a virtue, right? Well, it’s one few of are blessed with, especially when it comes to becoming part of a pulsing, people stream of traffic. The most patient among us can potentially come unglued in a traffic jam, but some advise — don’t come apart if you get caught in one! Don’t lose it on fellow loop neighbors.
Instead, keep your cool and maybe make friends who know where the party’s at. Maybe you’ll meet your future spouse stuck in traffic — who knows?
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
Police and city ambassadors will be out in droves. While their ramped-up presence is controversial to some, they’re there to help guide and ensure your safety, and suggest you know your path before starting out.
There’s an online map to help you find your way. And tons of brochures stamped with quick response codes that lead to maps and helpful information floating around.
Also, if you’re new, chances are many around you aren’t, and may be able to help guide you. Call the Myrtle Beach Information line at 843-918-INFO (4636) for assistance, if needed.