Thousands of bikers expected as Harley Davidson spring rally revs up

Motorcycles of all kinds are parked at Suck Bang Blow in Murrels Inlet for 2014’s annual Spring Harley-Davidson rally on Friday.
Motorcycles of all kinds are parked at Suck Bang Blow in Murrels Inlet for 2014’s annual Spring Harley-Davidson rally on Friday. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Visitors and locals along the Grand Strand should expect to see more motorcycles than usual this week as the Harley Davidson Cruising the Coast spring rally revs up.

Some local police departments are beefing up their manpower to help with congestion and extra foot traffic along the busiest areas or hot spots, such as near bars along the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk and along major highways. Sheri Gibson, marketing director for Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson said thousands of bikers are expected and she asked that everyone on the road to look twice for bikers.

“We’re going to have more bikers in town than we usually do, so just listen, look and be on the lookout for riders,” Gibson said. “We just want a great event and safe event.”

The influx of bikers should bump up local tourism during the weekend, with the forecasted occupancy rate at 80 percent, according to Taylor Demonte, director of the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism.

Midweek occupancy levels should be around 55 percent, which is lower than the past few years, but should jump back up during the weekends, Demonte said.

“That suggests that the demand for longer term stays is down by several percentage points, but the demand for weekend business is strong and up a little bit,” he said.

“But it’s basically in line with what we saw last year at this time,” Demonte said.

Most area police agencies, including the S.C. Highway Patrol, say that because of the expected crowd size they will use extra officers in the area through the weekend. Horry County police will deploy about 40 extra officers each day through the Harley Davidson rally, which is less than half of the additional officers the department needs for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, said Lt. Raul Denis. Myrtle Beach police will not staff extra officers during this week’s rally, said. Lt. Joey Crosby.

North Myrtle Beach police will be out in full-force during this week’s spring rally and during Memorial Day weekend, said Pat Dowling, public information officer for the city.

Officers will be stationed where most needed, mainly working around congested areas to keep traffic moving, Dowling said. In North Myrtle Beach he said access to residential streets will be opened to residents, but closed to participants in the spring rally and those who visit for the Bikefest, which happens during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“This provides an opportunity for some calm or quiet in our neighborhoods during either event,” Dowling said.

The S.C. Highway Patrol plans to send additional troopers, posting officers along the most-congested areas to help with traffic flow, said Cpl. Sonny Collins.

Troopers will be stationed near U.S. 17 and U.S. 17 Bypass merge – around Suck Bang Blow in Murrells Inlet – to assist pedestrians and motorcyclists, as well as at the Harley Davidson store near Myrtle Beach State Park, for example, Collins said. Officers will be handing out safety items to all riders and working to “make sure everything is safe.”

“We will have a presence both weekends during the Harley rally, and of course we’ll be there again for Memorial Day weekend,” Collins said.

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Department expects to use the same operational plans for the spring rally and Bikefest, placing multiple deputies along most of the major highways in the county, said Carrie Cuthbertson, public information officer for the department.

The greatest concentration of deputies will be in areas with large crowds and major highways, Cuthbertson said. She also urged motorist who plan to drink alcohol to have a designated driver and plan ahead for traffic congestion.

“Sheriff Lane Cribb wants people to have a good time while visiting our area, but please obey the laws of Georgetown County and be considerate of everyone,” Cuthbertson said.

Horry County will deploy about 40 extra officers every day during Harley week, which is less than half of the additional officers needed for Bikefest, said Lt. Raul Denis. The additional officers “will be assigned to teams responsible for designated geographic areas throughout the county,” Denis said.

“They will be tasked with responding to calls for service and assistance, monitoring event participants, monitoring businesses working under special event permits and monitoring traffic,” he said.

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.

Harley Davidson Cruising the Coast spring rally safety tips

For bikers:

  • ▪ ▪ Be aware of where you park; several motorcycles are stolen every year, especially expensive, custom and show bikes
  • ▪ Avoid dark, poorly lit areas
  • ▪ Don’t leave leathers, cameras, GPS or other expensive items on bikes
  • ▪ Use high quality disk locks, wheel locks, and heavy duty cable or chain locks to lock motorcycles; theives can easily break through factory ignition locks

For residents and non-cycling tourists:

  • ▪ Be patient; traffic is going to be slower and businesses will be fuller than usual
  • ▪ Leave for attractions, work or restaurants earlier than usual; leave plenty of time to spare
  • ▪ Look twice for motorcyclists and pedestrians, especially in high foot traffic areas

– Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach public information officer