Myrtle Beach Bike Rallies

Bikefest attendees: Let’s bankrupt Myrtle Beach

Generation gap spreads from Atlantic Beach to Myrtle Beach at Bikefest

Thirty-five years ago Atlantic Beach Bikefest started across a few blocks in Atlantic Beach. Now, the annual Memorial Day weekend event spreads miles across Myrtle Beach. While the old-timers prefer the quaint gathering up north, younger crowds a
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Thirty-five years ago Atlantic Beach Bikefest started across a few blocks in Atlantic Beach. Now, the annual Memorial Day weekend event spreads miles across Myrtle Beach. While the old-timers prefer the quaint gathering up north, younger crowds a

Atlantic Beach Bikefest attendees say they’ve had enough of Myrtle Beach’s enforcement efforts over the Memorial Day weekend that led many to feel like they were in prison instead of on vacation.

Next year, they plan to boycott the city and move the money they spend on hotel rooms and at businesses in Myrtle Beach to North Myrtle Beach.

“A lot of people are mad because of the treatment they experienced this year in Myrtle Beach,” Clarence Middleton said in a post on www.BlackBikeWeek.us, a site he moderates along with its corresponding Facebook page that has more than 250,000 followers.

“People were not happy about the loop. This was the second year of the loop and the increased police presence,” he said.

The 23-mile traffic loop forced drivers into a “traffic situation that’s going to eventually delay you,” he added, and with blocked side streets and barricaded street ends motorists were forced to take the long way around. The “undue harassment” from extra police also upset a lot of Bikefest attendees, he said.

Let's bankrupt Myrtle Beach!

Clarence Middleton, moderator of www.blackbikeweek.us

City leaders have said the measures were put into place in 2015 to curb the violence seen during Memorial Day weekend in 2014 when three people were killed and seven were injured in eight shootings along Ocean Boulevard.

The beefed-up police presence and traffic control measures, aimed to ease congestion and cut down on street parties, were part of attempts to keep the event safe, according to city spokesman Mark Kruea.

“It is not an organized event,” he said, unlike other special events proposed to the city that come with plans to address safety.

“This event is an exception to that rule,” Kruea said. It’s “something the city must cope with and given the violence and the wrecks attached to this event, we’re serious about making it a safe event.”

But instead of the measures making people feel safe, some guests said they felt unfairly targeted.

Middleton said he talked to Bikefest attendees and the main consensus was “to stay out of the Myrtle Beach area … and economically avoid Myrtle Beach as much as possible.”

Middleton created a GoFundMe page to raise money to promote next year’s event and to inform others of the boycott. He said this wasn’t the first time the city has tried to push them out.

“Myrtle Beach passed a helmet law [that took effect in 2009], and we boycotted the city, sued and won! In 2015 Myrtle Beach started the traffic loop making the last two years of Bike Week a nightmare; it's time to hit them in their pockets,” Middleton said on the GoFundMe page.

“The move for 2017 is to boycott the city of Myrtle Beach. Move everyone to Atlantic Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove, and the surrounding areas, and to not spend a single dime in the Myrtle Beach city limits,” Middleton continued. “Let's bankrupt Myrtle Beach!”

A lot of people are mad because of the treatment they experienced this year in Myrtle Beach.

Clarence Middleton, moderator of www.blackbikeweek.us

The group’s goal is to raise $30,000 to promote a campaign about the boycott, “build a hotel booking engine that will direct everyone to hotels that are not in the Myrtle Beach city limits” and to host events that attract the crowd to North Myrtle Beach. The page had raised $45 as of Tuesday evening.

“We’re hoping we can move 40-50 percent of the crowd to North Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas,” Middleton said. Another goal is to educate people on the city’s boundaries, helping attendees find other places to stay.

North Myrtle Beach leaders, however, say they don’t have the hotel accommodations of their neighboring city to the south.

“When it comes to vacationer capacity in North Myrtle Beach, we have about 15,000 rooms to rent and Myrtle Beach appears to have in excess of 99,000 rooms,” said city spokesman Pat Dowling. “Allowing for good weather and a decent economy, North Myrtle Beach accommodations are usually booked close to capacity for Memorial Day weekend each year.”

If your question is, would North Myrtle Beach accommodations alone be able to absorb a large-scale displacement of Bikefest attendees from Myrtle Beach, the practical answer is, no.

Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach city spokesman

Many repeat visitors attend Bikefest and many others come with no connection at all to the event, he said.

“If your question is, would North Myrtle Beach accommodations alone be able to absorb a large-scale displacement of Bikefest attendees from Myrtle Beach, the practical answer is, no,” Dowling said, adding that he thinks the discussion on the website will change in the coming weeks or months as visitors realize they might not all be able to fit in North Myrtle Beach.

And Dowling said Myrtle Beach has twice the number of major roads as North Myrtle Beach.

“North Myrtle Beach has Ocean Boulevard and Highway 17 Business, both of which are already pretty congested over the Memorial Day weekend,” Dowling said. “If folks find it hard to find the road room to ‘ride free’ in Myrtle Beach, it can ultimately be even more difficult in North Myrtle Beach.”

But bikers know a successful boycott can be done.

“The Harley riders have done it successfully,” Middleton said, adding that they plan to do the same thing.

If we don’t fix this situation, and move … the event to a better area, and hurt Myrtle Beach’s pockets, Bike Week as we know it could die next year.

Clarence Middleton, moderator of www.blackbikeweek.us

Both groups started to boycott Myrtle Beach after leaders passed a controversial helmet law, Middleton said, but Bikefest attendees returned after the law was struck down in the state’s Supreme Court. The latest enforcement efforts, however, have the group eager to follow Harley riders’ lead.

“If we don’t fix this situation, and move … the event to a better area, and hurt Myrtle Beach’s pockets, Bike Week as we know it could die next year,” Middleton said on the crowdfunding site.

Followers on the group’s Facebook page had mixed reactions to the proposed boycott.

“The problem is by boycotting we as the bike week participants are doing exactly … (what) the city of Myrtle Beach want us to do. I really don't think this is the answer to solve the problem,” posted Kelcey Bradley of North Charleston. “Leaders of the City of Myrtle Beach are willing to make Zero $$$$ that weekend to (be) rid of the whole Event. With that type of mentality the best way to show them you mean Business is keep coming and with big numbers.”

Kiori Kash of Princessville, N.J., said feeling welcomed to a city where you are vacationing makes a big difference. “Don’t give south Myrtle Beach one red cent,” she posted.

“It should have never left Atlantic (Beach),” posted Joey Addison of Rowland, N.C.

Several bikers still flood Atlantic Beach, where the Memorial Day weekend event began 36 years ago and continues without spikes in violence or crime. But the event grew too large for the small city to accommodate the entire crowd, leading many attendees south to stay in Myrtle Beach.

Unfortunately over time in the city of Myrtle Beach the Atlantic Beach Bikefest became marred by violence, gang activity and other illegal behavior. In response the city has employed the same strategies to manage this event as have many other communities who have been faced by the same challenge.

John Pedersen, Myrtle Beach city manager

Attendees have said the city has tried to kick them out ever since with moves like voting in a noise ordinance targeting the noise of motorcycles, traffic loops, extra police presence and the helmet law.

“Unfortunately over time in the city of Myrtle Beach the Atlantic Beach Bikefest became marred by violence, gang activity and other illegal behavior,” said City Manager John Pedersen. “In response the city has employed the same strategies to manage this event as have many other communities who have been faced by the same challenge.”

He said the city’s goal is safety.

“We have made great progress, but we plan to continue until we fully achieve this goal. All lives matter in the city of Myrtle Beach,” Pedersen said.

The city has no plans to cut back on traffic controls or law enforcement for next year’s event.

“North Myrtle Beach officials are not reacting to the discussion that is taking place on the (Black Bike Week) website, we are just listening,” Dowling said. “People on the website are just talking with each other about their personal perceptions of Bikefest as they have experienced it in different locations. … That is not a bad thing. When people talk together about issues they have in common, they tend to work things out, and ultimately they will arrive at some practical conclusions that work for everyone, including North Myrtle Beach.”

Dowling said leaders may begin talking about the move if they start to see it would impact the city’s ability to provide residents and guests with reliable service and safety.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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