MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A federal court will have to decide the future of a traffic loop during Memorial Day Bikefest, also known as "Black Bike Week."
Today at the federal courthouse in Greenville, the NAACP will begin making their arguments against the City of Myrtle Beach and its police department. The lawsuit filed in February claims the 23-mile traffic control plan that's been used during "Black Bike Week" for the past few years is a form of discrimination against black tourists.
This loop stems from the aftermath of the 2014 violence, that resulted in three people dead and seven others hurt in shootings along Ocean Boulevard. City officials imposed the traffic loop the following year as a way to control traffic and crime, during that particular weekend.
If you've been in town during Bikefest, you know the loop forces traffic to travel in one direction —between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
The NAACP's lawsuit alleges there are "stark differences" in the treatment of African-American bikers during "Black Bike Week", compared to the treatment of majority-white bikers during Harley Week. It states the city imposes no formal traffic plan during Harley Week, which is usually the week before Bikefest.
Some businesses along Ocean Boulevard say although business slows down when the traffic loop is in place, it's a good thing.
"It is for the safety, and if it's been a problem… you know, they're trying to make sure everyone is safe. You know regardless of how the traffic being slow, you know they have to take in precaution measures. Especially when it comes on to a certain time of the year, like… You know, bikers week is coming on, I agree it's for the safety for everyone," said Jacqueline McCray, an employee at NY Style Pizza.
Captain Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department provided the following statement on the plans for this year's upcoming event:
"Our legal team will be addressing this matter during court proceedings tomorrow," said Captain Crosby "As an organization, we will continue to move forward with preparing our operational plan, as well as collaborating with the law enforcement agencies within the Bikefest Task Force group to ensure our operational plans achieve our mission which is to create a safer environment for our citizens, the attendees, and public safety personnel working the event. If anyone is seeking information concerning our operational plan, they can visit our website, follow us on social media, as well as visit Bikebeachweek.info."
The NAACP previously filed a motion to stop the traffic loop for this year's event, but went ahead with the federal case.
Some businesses on Ocean Boulevard say although the loop seems to help control traffic in the area, employee's find it a hassle to leave work, some even having to go home early.
"Cause, we'll have to go all the way around the city just to get home. Like if you live in the middle, like I live… closer in the middle, and it's like… I have to go all the way around, and then loop back around just to get home, when it takes me like 15 minutes to get home, naturally. Now, it's going to take me 30…45," said Lashae Ross, a hostess at Pier 14.
The hearing is expected to start at 1:30 p.m on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Greenville. The judge could issue a ruling as part of today's hearing, but it's not guaranteed.