MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As the city of Myrtle Beach and the police department, along with other local agencies, prepare for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, local bikers hope visitors will show more respect for the city.
"I talk to a lot of bikers for Memorial week, and they're even mad at the way their week has become," said Curtis Owens.
Owens and Stephen Sekelsky are locals, friends, and motorcycle enthusiasts who live the biker lifestyle. They took a ride down to Ocean Boulevard, something they don't plan to do over Memorial Day weekend.
"There's a big lack of respect. I've never seen a town so dirty after an event," said Sekelsky.
Over the years, they've seen how Bikefest has changed. There are now more cars that join the festivities instead of just bikes, which adds to the traffic problems. Sekelsky said Bikefest typically attracts more people to the beach, whereas Harley week is more spread out. With all the added congestion, both bikers agree something had to be done to keep bikers moving. This will be the second year for the 23-mile traffic loop. Both Sekelsky and Owens agree it was an annoyance, but also necessary.
"If I was coming from out-of-state and I saw all this, I'd be like, 'Holy cow, these cops aren't fooling around down here,'" said Sekelsky. "And I'd be on my best behavior. No doubt!"
Since it's so busy during the holiday weekend, many local bikers won't even bring their motorcycles out. Instead they'll go to a restaurant and watch the unique bikes and custom cars from there.
"It's not about the drama, it's not about the people cussing each other out, stuff like that. It's nothing like that. I want to see the cars. I want to see the bikes," said Owens.
With more people comes more litter and more chances of unlawful behavior. As local bikers have watched the violence escalate over the years, seeing more police officers is another change they've noticed and appreciate.
"I know that the police presence, a lot of people frown on it. But it has to be. But even with the police presence, it's still not enough," said Owens.
Owens said he's seen websites that make Myrtle Beach seem like a haven for bad behavior over this holiday weekend. "There's websites that say, 'Come down here. The law doesn't apply to us on Memorial Day weekend!' And stuff like that. I hate seeing that stuff, especially with this being my hometown," said Owens.
Both local bikers hope that any visitors during the holiday weekend will show respect for the city, the locals, law enforcement, and each other.
"I have a feeling this year's not going to be the greatest," said Owens. "Every year it gets worse and worse."
But they're also not sure anything will change.
"No way they're going to stop it," said Sekelsky. "There's no way they're going to change it. The most they can do is change the attitude of the police and the people here while it's going on. And either A) You'll get sick and tired of being harassed by the police, as everyone's going to say. Or B) You're going to get with the program."