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Barriers start to go up along Ocean Blvd for Atlantic Beach Bikefest

Thousands of metal barriers now line Ocean Boulevard as city officials hope to keep motorcycles on the road, and people off them, during the upcoming Atlantic Beach Bikefest, commonly referred to as Black Bike Week.

The barriers are for the contested 23-mile traffic loop that city officials say help keep people safe as hundreds of thousand of people flock to the Grand Strand area.

The main festivities begin this weekend, although the roar of the bikes can already be heard in town as Harley Week turns into Bikefest. Soon, the motorcycles sounds in between the barrier walls will accompany the noise of crowded concerts and parties planned to celebrate the event.

Chuck Frazier, an equipment operator helping place the barricades, began working with his crew around 5:30 a.m. A crew member handed barricade after barricade from a trailer to be lined along the road.

After a few barricades were unloaded, the truck driver traveled up a few feet and unloading crews followed on foot, continuing to set up more barriers. There was little stopping during the process.

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Crews unload thousands of barriers days before Atlantic Beach Bikefest kicks off. Tyler Fleming tfleming@thesunnews.com

The loop goes into effect on 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, lasting until 2 a.m. each morning. Police say the barricades will control traffic flow and allow better access for medical vehicles.

Richard Lail, who is visiting with his family from Hickory, North Carolina, was on the boardwalk during the placement process and agrees the barricades are needed. He said he sees a lot of reckless driving and hopes the barricades will help keep children out of the street.

Shane Bacchus, a Myrtle Beach local, said he is unsure how to feel about the barricades but hopes it helps keep pedestrians from crossing the street illegally.

“I don’t know if it is discriminatory or just to keep people safe,” he said. “I think it’s for the walkers' safety."

Even as the barriers go up, a discrimination lawsuit by the NAACP is still ongoing. Federal Judge Marvin Quattlebaum has yet to make a ruling on an injunction to stop the loop as Bikefest quickly approaches.

The suit, which began in February, claims that the loop is not used for other Myrtle Beach events, like Harley Week.

"All citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law and have the rights of expression, assembly and association," said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson in a February press release. "The city's traffic plan and overly-aggressive policing tactics during Black Bike Week violates those fundamental constitutional rights. The association will continue to use the courts to fight such blatant discrimination."

Capt. Joey Crosby, spokesman for the Myrtle Beach Police Department, previously told The Sun News Memorial Day Bike Week creates more traffic for Ocean Boulevard than Harley Week. The plan for the loop is to increase visibility on the roads and keep people safe.

Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said last week that the police have no plans if the judge rules in favor of the NAACP.

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