With only a few tweaks to last year’s plan, the Memorial Day Bikefest traffic loop will once again aim to keep vehicles moving May 27-29 in hopes of eliminating large gatherings and the possibility of trouble, such as the shootings that occurred during the 2014 event.
The overall plan was initiated last year to help control traffic provides a “unified command” for law enforcement and fire/rescue operations, Horry County Director of Emergency Management Randy Webster and chairman of the Bikefest Task Force said during a public forum Tuesday.
Jointly enforcing a 23-mile traffic loop from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. the Friday through Sunday of the holiday weekend in Myrtle Beach and unincorporated Horry County “should be a very good weekend and a very safe weekend,” Webster said.
The traffic loop was used over Memorial Day weekend last year following violence during that holiday weekend in 2014, when eight shootings in Myrtle Beach in 48 hours left three people dead and four others wounded. Hundreds of thousands of visitors usually flock to the Grand Strand during Memorial Day weekend for Atlantic Beach Bikefest or to take advantage of a long holiday weekend.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two business/community meetings set to review Memorial Day Bikefest traffic patterns and respond to residents’ concerns. A second meeting will be held at 9 a.m. April 26 at the Original Benjamin’s Calabash restaurant, 9593 North Kings Highway. Both areas are heavily affected by Bikefest traffic, county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.
Officials talked Tuesday about what business owners and residents could expect this year in traffic management, increased police presence and enforcement of laws. The task force has been meeting monthly with the goal of making the motorcycle rally “a very successful event,” Webster said.
“This event has a big potential for a lot of accidents and it doesn’t take a lot to overwhelm medical,” Webster said. He said a city-county effort is being made to ensure residents and visitors are protected and receive the services they need.
If you have a large crowd in a small space, it doesn’t take long for an argument to start.
Lt Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department
The bike loop, which grew out of a summit held with areas across the country that deal with similar events, aims to keep traffic moving, which “creates a safer environment,” Lt. Joey Crosby of the Myrtle Beach Police Department, said. The goal was to spread out the congestion that occurs along Ocean Boulevard.
“If you have a large crowd in a small space, it doesn’t take long for an argument to start,” Crosby said.
The bike loop will begin at 29th Avenue North and U.S. 17 Bypass and run to Ocean Boulevard, then south to Kings Highway to Harrelson Boulevard and across the Intracoastal Waterway to Waccamaw Boulevard. The route then runs to Highways 501 and 31 where an interchange will allow drivers to go south, north or to Conway. Another exit will be at Grissom Parkway and 29th Avenue North. Ocean Boulevard will be one-way during loop hours.
Some hoteliers have concerns about guests getting to the hotels during loop hours.
“If people need to get to a motel, we’ll make sure they get there,” Crosby said.
A different company than last year will provide event staff who will be stationed at various places along the loop, Crosby said. He said additional training will also help ensure those staff members know how to respond to various situations.
Some residents have concerns about getting to their home, including a some along Yaupon Drive.
“Our goal is not to keep you from your home,” Crosby said.
Those inside city limits who have problems getting to their homes or businesses during loop hours should call 843-918-1366, Crosby said.
Those outside city limits who have complaints should call a non-emergency Horry County Police number, 843-248-1520, to avoid overloading the 9-1-1 emergency system, officials said.
Want to know more? The next meeting to talk about the Memorial Day weekend traffic and safety plan will be at 9 a.m. April 26 at the Original Benjamin’s Calabash restaurant, 9593 North Kings Highway.
Webster also addressed the traffic chute and concrete barriers that will be set up on the north end of Myrtle Beach into Atlantic Beach and North Myrtle Beach. He said once in the chute travelers will not be able to get out until they get to Atlantic Beach where there will be some turnoffs to allow people to get to their specific destinations.
Two other areas to watch:
Around Myrtle Beach International Airport, which must be accessed from U.S. 17 Bypass north to Harrelson Boulevard during the specified evening hours.
River Oaks Boulevard will be closed to Waccamaw Boulevard to prevent through traffic. Access to U.S. 501 for Carolina Forest residents during traffic diversion will be from Carolina Forest Boulevard, Gardner Lacy Road or off of SC 31.
Capt. Stan Strickland of Horry County Police said a large number of extras officers in marked vehicles and in uniform, including S.C. Highway Patrol, will be present to “deter trouble” concentrating primarily on high traffic areas of Restaurant Row, along U.S. 501 and in the Garden City Beach area. He advised business owners who do not want people congregating on their property to be sure to review state trespassing laws and post the appropriate signage. He said property owners have the right to have vehicles towed from their property.
Go to www.police.cityofmyrtlebeach.com and www.horrycounty.org/BikeWeeks for more information.
Angela Nicholas can be reached at email@example.com.