Memorial Day weekend might be eight weeks away but Myrtle Beach police are already gearing up for the annual Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
With the city anticipating heavy attendance during the annual event, also known as black bike week, the police department held one of four informational sessions Thursday night trying to get the word out about the complex traffic pattern, or loop, that will be in place when thousands of bikes roll in on May 24.
“Now’s the time to plan,” said Capt. Joey Crosby, who hosted the public session. “Don’t wait until the last minute to see how this is going to impact you.”
The one-way, 23-mile loop begins at 29th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, then moves south to Kings Highway near the Myrtle Beach Airport, up Harrelson Boulevard to U.S. 501, onto northbound S.C. 31, down southbound Robert Grissom Parkway to U.S. Highway 17 Bypass, and back onto Ocean Boulevard.
“Go head and start now looking at the map, seeing how it may affect your travel plans and for you to get to and from your destination,” Crosby said. “We’re really encouraging that with the business community and our citizens.”
While police believe the traffic pattern is effective in monitoring traffic and public safety, the loop has been a subject of controversy since the city implemented it in 2015 after three men were killed in a shooting incident during the 2014 Bikefest.
The loop has resulted in lawsuits filed by the NAACP.
The NAACP filed a lawsuit last year over the loop saying it was discriminatory and not used during other weekends, most notably the springtime Harley bike week. While the judge sided with the city to allow the loop, the NAACP reemerged last month, asking a judge to once again block the loop, citing discrimination and ever-changing city defenses.
Despite the ongoing suit, the loop will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. through Memorial Day weekend. Hours are subject to change if traffic is light, Crosby said.
Crosby said that during the loop’s off hours drivers can only access Ocean Boulevard at any Kings Highway intersection with a traffic light. However, four avenues — 8th Avenue North, 16th Avenue North, 6th Avenue South and 17th Avenue South — will be closed off for emergency use.
Police are advising those who work at businesses along Ocean Boulevard and tourists staying at nearby hotels to park on the west side of Ocean Boulevard to avoid getting caught in any loop traffic.
Barricades will be placed along Ocean Boulevard ensuring pedestrians remain on sidewalks and use crosswalks. There will also be a heavy police presence along Ocean Boulevard and within the loop pattern with Crosby estimating at least 500 law enforcement officials from agencies in South Carolina and Georgia.
To avoid any confusion, Crosby said, there will be signage and message boards throughout the city regarding the loop, and pamphlets passed out at the airport, car rental agencies and hotels to visitors unaware of the traffic pattern. A 24-hour hotline will also be in place through the weekend for anyone who needs help or directions.
“We’re here to answer your questions, we’re here to give you the information and we’re certainly here to help you with your travel concerns,” Crosby said.
For those who missed Thursday’s meeting, police will hold another community meeting at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot on Apr. 11. Meetings will then be held for businesses on Apr. 4 and Apr. 18.