MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The city of Myrtle Beach is touting that trauma admissions for the Memorial Day weekend “dramatically decreased” from 2014 to 2015, the inaugural year for 23-mile traffic loop.
Attorneys for the NAACP say there is no evidence to show the decline in admissions is due to that loop.
This is the latest in the legal back-and-forth between the city and the national organization. In February 2018, the NAACP sued Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Police Department, alleging the traffic loop discriminates against African American attendees of the Atlantic Beach Bike Fest, also known as Black Bike Week.
In a more than 170-page amended response to the NAACP’s motion for preliminary injunction that was filed April 23, attorneys for the city provided charts from the Grand Strand Medical Center, which showed total trauma admissions for 2012 through 2018.
In 2014, that number was around 60 for the Memorial Day weekend. It fell to less than 40 for the period in 2015.
As for motorcycle crash trauma admissions, charts from GSMC showed there were more than 30 for the 2014 Memorial Day weekend. A year later, that number dipped below 20.
In its April 25 response, the NAACP’s attorneys argued the hospital’s data shows no particular trends related to trauma admissions before and after the implementation of the loop, noting there were fewer admissions during the 2013 bike fest, when there was no traffic plan in place, than there were during the 2015 and 2017 Memorial Day weekends.
Hospital information included with the NAACP’s response states there were 69 total trauma admissions to GSMC from Friday through Monday of the 2013 Memorial Day holiday period. For 2015, that number was 72, while it rose to 76 in 2017 over that same four-day timeframe.
“Other documents produced by the Grand Strand Hospital show that the traffic loop itself actually increases the number of serious injuries during Black Bike Week because it routes traffic to larger roads with higher speeds,” the NAACP’s response states.
Another part of the city’s filing centered on a transcript of the deposition of Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill.
Hill testified he has previously attended the Memorial Day Bike Fest as a civilian.
“The Atlantic Beach Bike Festival was a curiosity to me. I heard a lot about it. After the second time, it was the last time I wanted to … had any desire to come down because of the traffic,” Hill said during his deposition.
In addition to the traffic, Hill added the bike fest didn’t appeal to him because of “behaviors that are not conducive to my lifestyle.” They included reckless motorcycle operation, drinking while driving a motorcycle and “what I deem to be disrespect of females.”
Hill admitted during the deposition he has not been in the traffic loop since its 2015 implementation.
In their argument, the NAACP said Hill has no “firsthand knowledge” of the traffic loop due to his own admittance that he stays away from it.
“Chief Hill has not observed the loop more closely or entered the loop because of the serious traffic issues caused by the loop,” the NAACP’s response read, in part.
The group also claimed the traffic Hill witnessed when he was in the area for the 2008 bike fest was caused by a one-way traffic plan on Ocean Boulevard.
“The circumstances in 2008, therefore, are similar to when the loop is in place and traffic is forced to travel southbound on Ocean Boulevard,” court records state.
In her deposition, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said the one-way traffic plan on Ocean Boulevard ran from 1999 to 2010.
In one additional response filed April 30, the city states its belief the court is capable of considering the “weight and significance” a preliminary injunction could have on public safety throughout Myrtle Beach without “unnecessary delay.”
The traffic loop at the center of this lawsuit is the result of the violence that rocked downtown Myrtle Beach over the 2014 Memorial Day weekend. Three people were killed and seven others hurt in shootings along Ocean Boulevard.
A trial date in this case was originally set for September but has since been delayed to Dec. 2.
Both Myrtle Beach’s and the NAACP’s recent court filings can be read in their entirety below.