Biker sues county over Bikefest traffic loop accident

A motorcyclist who fell off his bike is suing Horry County after he said “confusing” signs directed him to drive onto the unpaved portion of International Drive during the 2017 Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

The biker, North Carolina resident Neil Blair, filed a suit on Jan. 9 against the county, the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources, claiming that injuries from his fall caused him to spend “great sums upon doctors, hospital and pharmacies.”

On May 26, 2017, Blair was driving within the mandatory 23-mile loop enforced from 10 p.m. through 2 a.m. when, the suit explains, he saw “confusing” signs “that appeared to make the plaintiff and other motorcyclists drive onto International Drive,” which is an unfinished road under construction by the county.

International Drive in Carolina Forest is not part of the bike loop and had not been completely paved at the time of the accident.

After traveling about a quarter-mile down the road, Blair drove onto the dirt and “immediately fell causing serious injuries to the plaintiff and other cyclists,” according to the complaint.

The suit says the “unreasonably dangerous” road should have been closed and that the defendants were reckless and negligent in failing to place proper signage, maintaining an unreasonable hazardous and unsafe roadway and in failing to warn motorists of the unsafe conditions.

Myrtle Beach is not named in the suit, but Myrtle Beach police Capt. Joey Crosby said that electronic message boards are put up along the 23-mile loop to keep bikers on track. In addition, the route is published on numerous social media and traditional media platforms.

The loop was put in place to keep the heavy traffic moving along Ocean Boulevard, he said.

“It’s a collective effort, this is not something that just the City of Myrtle Beach does,” Crosby said. “We discuss all of these things. The city is responsible for the signs within the city, but we discuss the event as a whole to ensure there’s proper notification.”

But biker’s advocate Violet “Heels” Lucas said the electronic signs aren’t good enough and can be confusing to bikers.

“Once they’re in the traffic, they’re already overwhelmed and they’re frustrated and that makes it more confusing for them,” she said. “You have complaints of people missing the exit and having to go through the whole process again. The signs aren’t adequate.”

Although Lucas is opposed to the loop, she said the county could put up larger reflective signs that are easier to read instead of the electronic ones.

“It kind of glows from the light so you can spot it from the distance,” she said. “It’s a little less hazardous.”

County spokesperson Kelly Moore said in an email that the county “does not offer commentary on substantive matters related to pending litigation.”

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian