Atlantic Beach officials prep for big Bike Fest

Published: May. 24, 2011 at 11:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2011 at 12:31 PM EDT
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ATLANTIC BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Officials in Atlantic Beach are putting the finishing touches on preparations for this year's Memorial Day Bike Fest, which they estimate will host more than 500,000 bikers.

That estimate comes from Chief of Police Eric Lewis, who says the number is based upon sold-out hotel rooms and contact with bikers on social networking sites like Twitter.

Chief Lewis says his department along with other local police agencies is focusing on setting up safe traffic patterns and making sure signs are in place letting bikers know where they can drive and park.

He says this year traffic will be set up to flow around the events and not directly through the area where many vendors will be set up.

Charles Wright has been coming to Bike Fest for the last 18 years and he says he's noticed the decline in attendance over the last few years, but expects things to be bigger this year now that the helmet law was overturned.

"Bikers left because of over policing of the event and over the helmet law and just the oppression of motorcyclists all together," Wright said.

Officials in North Myrtle Beach are expected to put up a traffic chute that will funnel Bike Fest traffic into Atlantic Beach and keep all other traffic moving past the town. That chute should be in place by 3 a.m. Friday, but a representative with the city says it could happen sometime Thursday if needed.

Despite a reputation for rowdiness, Chief Lewis says he doesn't expect crime to be a problem at this year's festivities.

"We've got a better quality of people that's coming for the event and what's helping so much with that is that we are trying to focus more on families," Lewis said.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.