NAACP Files Lawsuit against Myrtle Beach over Traffic Loop
Myrtle Beach can use a traffic loop during the Memorial Day weekend Bikefest after a judge struck down an attempt to block the detour.
Judge Mary Geiger Lewis issued her ruling on Wednesday, days ahead of the official start of Atlantic Beach bike week.
The judge stated in her order that African Americans “do appear disparately impacted” by the loop, but Myrtle Beach’s use of the detour did not come from “discriminatory intent.”
It is the latest in a year-long legal fight between the NAACP and Myrtle Beach over the 23-mile traffic loop.
Myrtle Beach officials previously argued the loop is needed as a safety precaution to allow emergency responders to use Ocean Boulevard and decrease traffic.
The NAACP initially filed a suit in February 2018 over the traffic loop, calling it discriminatory. NAACP leaders said the detour is not used during other weekends and it has done little to improve safety. They also say those that enter the one-way detour can be trapped inside for hours.
The detour funnels traffic from Ocean Boulevard out to the county before returning to city limits. While it starts at 10 p.m. and run to 2 a.m., last year Myrtle Beach canceled the loop early each night.
The loop has been the subject of controversy since the city - following a countywide task force recommendation - implemented it in 2015 after three men were killed in multiple shooting incidents during the 2014 Bikefest event.
After filing the initial suit last year, the NAACP asked a federal judge to stop the 2018 traffic loop. But, the judge denied that request. Despite that ruling, the NAACP again asked a judge to prevent the city from using the detour in 2019.
In her ruling, Lewis noted the NAACP case isn’t without merit, but didn’t meet the requirements for her to issue an order to block the loop. She added she weighed the NAACP concerns with the city’s public safety fears and determined Myrtle Beach had the better argument.
“The public interest is best served if Defendants [Myrtle Beach] are allowed to go forward with the traffic loop for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend,” Lewis wrote.
The NAACP argued that previous Myrtle Beach officials made statements about race being a deciding factor in creating the detour. But, Lewis found that no recent comments to show racial animosity, according to her ruling.
The task force was the group that ultimately decided to use the loop, Lewis wrote.