Horry County Councilmen hope county officials can keep residents more in the loop about the Memorial Day Bikefest traffic pattern planned for the area.
Residents need more details about how their neighborhoods will be affected by the 23-mile loop and how locals will be able to get around town during that busy holiday weekend, several council members said during their meeting Tuesday.
“To the people who are in the county, the people who live here and may be inside that loop, my constituents, they’re concerned and here we are two months before the event and this is about as much of the plan that we’ve seen,” said Councilman Marion Foxworth. “At some point, are we going to be able to cross jurisdictional lines... and unveil the rest of this plan?”
Randy Webster, emergency management director for Horry County and head of the Bikefest Task Force, assured the council there is more to come. No definitive date for the outreach was announced Tuesday.
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Law enforcement, medical and emergency services agencies have been working on a plan to better organize the thousands of people who head to the county for Bikefest — including a 23-mile traffic loop — after three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach during Memorial Day weekend last year.
More than 100 officers and private security will man the 23-mile traffic loop — from 29th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard south and around to Kings Highway, north to Harrelson Boulevard – which turns into George Bishop Parkway – west to Waccamaw Boulevard, which runs next to U.S. 501, onto S.C. 31 heading north to Grissom Parkway south, then onto U.S. 17 Bypass and down 29th Avenue North — that will be in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Memorial Day weekend. The loop will be put in place in an effort to keep traffic moving and cut down on street parties.
Foxworth said more needed to be done to explain the plan to residents.
“At some point, can we act as a clearing house so a resident can go to a website somewhere and see what they can reasonably expect in their neighborhood on that weekend?” Foxworth said. “Because they don’t know and it’s rising concerns within the residents, the business community and different aspects of society. A lot of times, anticipation is worse than whatever happens, and I’m afraid the closer we get, we may be leaning in that direction.”
Webster said community education is part of the plan.
“As we’re getting closer to the event, we’ll start doing more of the community education aspects of it,” Webster said. “What you saw was a lot of work to get that information out, and that’s just one piece of it. There’s more coming.”
Council Chairman Mark Lazarus echoed Foxworth’s concerns, stating the public needs to know more exact plans.
“I think it could be more detailed,” Lazarus said. “There are a lot of roads along the route that are going to blocked and going to be manned, but I think there is a detail you can show in that loop that this is blocked, this is access, this is non-access, this is manned, this is not manned, how that loop is going to be controlled.”
Lazarus said many residents who have seen the map issued by the city simply “see a red line in front of their neighborhood and are not sure what’s going to happen.”
“They want to have the knowledge that [bikers are] not going to have access into your neighborhood because we’re going to have barricades No. 1,” Lazarus said. “No. 2, we’re going to have that access point manned, and if you have an emergency or need to get out, there will be someone there to talk to to help you get out or to get you into the right direction.”
Lazarus also asked for the public to be able to see a comprehensive plan outlining where the barricades will be on Ocean Boulevard, the one-way traffic plan, information that lets people know once they’re in the traffic loop, that’s where they must stay and more.
“There’s a contingency plan that if we see traffic funneling in the wrong direction, highway patrol has ways to divert traffic,” Lazarus said. “We have other diversions throughout that loop. If it gets clogged here, we can take them here or there, and I think those need to be shown.”
Webster said he isn’t sure how detailed the information will be that he can get out to the public at this stage of the plan.
“I think that there were significant challenges... to get this far,” Webster said. “I think that’s something we can continue to work toward. I don’t know to what level we can put together to try and achieve what you mentioned... I think we can look at it. I just don’t know how successful, at this point, we can be, on my limited knowledge right now for that part of it.”
Foxworth said he would hate to see the information not disseminated.
“I would hate to see all of your hard work basically stumble because this well-researched and well put together plan... could ultimately fail because of death by a thousand cuts,” Foxworth said. “A little bit of information, sometimes, is more dangerous than no information.”
Councilman Johnny Vaught said he has heard from residents that they, also, don’t know what’s going on during Bikefest.
“We’re spending a lot of time and effort educating the participants of Bikefest, and I think we need to spend at least that much time and effort educating our citizens, because that’s really who we’re doing it for,” Vaught said. “And I think if we don’t have our people educated and we don’t have our people following the plan, the plan is going to fail.”
Webster said county staff is committed to do more community outreach to educate the public.
“I don’t know that we could truly get everyone to buy in on it, but I think we can educate them and show them what we’re trying to do as a group and as a community,” Webster said. “At least people will understand what their limitations may be or inconveniences may be.”
Lazarus said he has confidence the plan will work.
“There’s no perfect answer to this,” Lazarus said. “There are a lot of unknowns that are out there. At least we’re planning. There is a plan in place that we can react in a lot of circumstances. If we have some challenges in some areas, we will be able to react to those areas very quickly. We will be very well prepared for that.”