Here’s why Myrtle Beach says a traffic loop during Memorial Day weekend is needed

Here’s an aerial view of the Myrtle Beach traffic loop

South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Bob Beres shared this video of the Myrtle Beach traffic loop for Atlantic Beach Bikefest on Saturday, May 26, 2018.
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South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Bob Beres shared this video of the Myrtle Beach traffic loop for Atlantic Beach Bikefest on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

Myrtle Beach officials say they should be allowed to use the traffic loop during the 2019 Memorial Day weekend in opposition to a push by the NAACP to ban the 23-mile detour.

The city noted a federal judge allowed them to use the loop in 2018 despite a similar NAACP effort, and the detour attempts to serve a public safety motive.

Last week, Myrtle Beach leaders answered a NAACP request for an injunction that would halt the use of the traffic loop during the 2019 Atlantic Beach BikeFest. Myrtle Beach used the 23-mile traffic loop during Memorial Day Weekend, but either ended its use earlier than planned or scrapped the loop.

The loop funnels traffic from Ocean Boulevard out to the county before returning to city limits. It starts at 10 p.m. and runs into the morning hours. The NAACP argued that it takes four hours for some motorists to drive the route of the loop.

As portions of Ocean Boulevard become one-way traffic during the loop, emergency vehicles use the other lanes to respond to calls.

The current version of the loop was first used in 2015 following a 2014 Memorial Day weekend marred with several shootings and three homicides.

Monday morning thousands of barriers were unloaded onto Ocean Boulevard. The barriers are a part of the contested traffic loop for Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

In February 2018, the NAACP filed suit over the loop and asked a judge to stop last year’s version. While a judge refused to block its implementation, the lawsuit continued. Last month, the NAACP asked the court to halt this year’s iteration.

The NAACP called the loop discriminatory and argued it is only used during Memorial Day Weekend when a large portion of the visitors are black.

The city admitted in its answer that the NAACP raised issues about the effectiveness of the traffic plan, it attempts to decrease traffic congestion and provide a clear path for emergency response vehicles. In previous court filings, the NAACP argued emergency response times have remained similar in the years before and after the loop was first used. They also say the response times are comparable to other weekends without the loop.

While the NAACP contends the loop is used to discourage blacks from visiting The Grand Strand during Memorial Day Weekend, city officials note the loop is applied equally to everyone — everyone that enters the loop is subjected to ride its distance.

The loop was the result of public safety planning and not intentional discrimination, the city stated in its answer. A bike task force, made up representatives from various county and city agencies, studied several possible patterns and recommended the 23-mile loop.

The NAACP also cited statements by current and previous city administrators to support its discrimination claims. The NAACP frequently references a 2005 federal court decision — one that led to a settlement and the elimination of the loop which lasted a few years. The city in its answer noted that different factors were in play in 2005, and that judge’s ruling was stayed by an appeals court.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.