As the Myrtle Beach BikeFest looms ever closer day by day, locals and tourist hunker down as though they are football teams with game plays jotted in notebooks, schedules and clocks in hand, attempting to make Memorial Week game plays that will allow them to navigate from work to home, from home to the grocery store, home to doctors appointments, daycares, schools and to other necessary locations. Each year brings inside bets placed on if, when, and how the City and County will deal with the weeks traffic and 2018 has proven no different.
Personal opinions on what is called “The Loop” are as different as night and day with 360 degree perspectives that have brought little if any cohesion among the people. The NAACP is still awaiting a deferred ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court in Greenville from a Judge whom has been on the Supreme Court Bench for only a few months. The NAACP has submitted “The Loop” is based on unequal process as the City of Myrtle Beach does not set up a loop during the twice yearly Harley sponsored bike weeks, nor any other time of year when traffic is as heavy if not heavier than BikeFest.
Bikefest has a rich heritage which began in the City of Atlantic Beach, historically known as the “Black Pearl of the South”. Atlantic Beach continues as the only legally established and continuous black community on the East Coast of North America with a population of approximately 400 residents in an area of only a few square miles. Bikefest has been a staple to the cultural activity dating back to the early 1980’s beginning with only a few dozen local riders, and is said to be the third largest motorcycle rally in the USA aside from Daytona, Florida and Sturgis, South Dakota.
For years the City of Myrtle Beach has set up “The Loop” to keep the traffic impact at a minimum, yet to many residents in the area it has only created a larger problem causing hours of delay and inconvenience when they must venture out to do their daily errands, traverse to work, events, even to the grocery store. Naturally, the locals are pleading for a resolution, yet it appears to fall on deaf ears.
In November of 2017 during a pre-election debate between then Mayor John Rhodes and current Mayor Brenda Bethune, they were specifically asked:
“Would you change anything about Bike Week or BikeFest?”
Rhodes: “I feel we’re headed in the right direction because our priority there is creating safety during this event. We want to to make sure our business that comes to Myrtle Beach, whether they’re on bikes, in cars that they have a safe environment. So when we have the extra police officers that come in, you know, we have a total of roughly 800 police officers here during Bike Week to make sure that this city, our residents are safe, our business is safe, our businesses is safe. And the loop has proven to be very beneficial and I’m not in favor of changing that loop at all. It has shown that it works and we are going to continue that loop.”
Bethune:The traffic loop I think is very constrictive to locals and to those who work on or near the boulevard that when they get off work late at night they have to get stuck in a traffic loop to get home and we have a lot of teenage workers that that affects. So I would like to see some type of locals pass or a pass for those who work in that area so they don’t have to get stuck in the loop going to or from work….”
The Bethune/Rhodes debate can be found here:
Bethune put forth a very instrumental idea that day. One that City of Myrtle Beach resident Betty Olivieri remembered from that November debate. Olivieri remembered it so well that she sent the new Mayor Bethune and the City Council a message on February 27th of this year stating:
“I just wanted to submit a thought to Mayor and Council regarding the upcoming Bikefest. There has been discussion to come up with a plan so that residents don’t get caught up in the bike loop. My suggestion, that will cost the city nothing, is to use what we already have…the city parking decal. Any permanent resident whose vehicles are registered inside the city limits are eligible for the decals. It would be easy for Officers to see the decal and wave those vehicles through the loop without having to stop traffic to check a driver’s license or pass.”
Unfortunately two and a half months later Olivieri has yet to hear a reply.
This past week the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation hosted a Bikefest Informatiotion meeting with the Myrtle Beach Police Department at the Train Depot in Myrtle Beach to present the plans they will be initiating, they also had live stream video Facebook posting. I took liberty at the time to ask a few question on their open forum.
Lisa Bean Williams · 2:08 Has the City and County looked into granting auto stickers for local residents which might alleviate back up traffic?
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Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation ·Hi Lisa, We have not heard of any plans for auto stickers.
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Lisa Bean Williams · Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation Please consider it to be a viable alternative in keeping local residents more free to do their daily business, especially those who work. Many cities have granted local resident pass stickers during high volume activities. Thank you.
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Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation· Lisa Bean Williams Thank you for your idea!We will pass your suggestion to the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
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Lisa Bean Williams · It had been suggested by Bettie Bobo Olivieri in an email to the Mayor and City Council in February. She brought it up because Mayor Bethune had mentioned it during her run for office and it appeared a viable idea. No one up to this time has replied back to Ms Olivieri.
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Bettie Bobo Olivieri · I had suggested that we use what we already have, our city parking stickers. It would already be displayed on any city resident’s vehicle and would cost zero for the city to implement.
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Evidently Mayor Bethune dropped the ball on this and it further begs the question if City leaders actually attempt to fulfill the ideas they present to the public during the election process and does the City actually listens to the citizens when they propose ideas and solutions?
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Lisa Bean Williams