Law and Order at BBW

Black Bike Week, also known as Atlantic Beach Bikefest and Black Bikers Week is the largest African American motorcycle rally in the United States. The event takes place on Memorial Day weekend and has been referred to as “Black Fill-in-the-Blank Week” due to the high attendance of non-motorcyclists in recent years. These other visitors are attracted to the event for its music and socialization on the beach. Other events include motorcycle racing, street festivals, parties, and concerts. Needless to say, the event attracts all kinds of people – a fact which appeals to many, but not all.

The group of local residents who have grown to dislike the Black Bike Week event have repeatedly attempted to crackdown on the event and limit attendance. One of their failed attempts to do this came with a new helmet law. On June 8, 2010, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned a city ordinance in Myrtle Beach that required all motorcyclists to wear helmets, citing that a state law requiring helmets for motorcyclists under the age of 21 could not be applied as a city ordinance in that way. The Court also noted the confusion the city ordinance had caused for motorcyclists and that it was a clear attempt to dissuade the attendance of rallies which are not banned from occurring. Myrtle Beach was then required to return all monies collect from fines on behalf of the city ordinance which was immediately dissolved.

Another attempt to limit the attendance of motorcyclists at the Black Bike Week rally was to control the noise limit in Myrtle Beach. Within months of a suit on behalf of business owners and residents against the new noise ordinance, the Myrtle Beach City Council made changes in the other direction. Rather than a reduction, the noise limit was actually increased. Motor vehicles that were once limited to 89 decibels while running idle were now allowed to operate as high as 99 decibels. This increase actually puts Myrtle Beach more in line with the national standards.

Bike rallies are not a new thing in Myrtle Beach. In fact, from 1940 until 2008, the city has hosted a predominantly white motorcycle rally known as Harley-Davidson Week or the spring Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealer’s Association (CHDDA) Rally. After the numerous attempts to deter attendance to the Black Bike Week, it became clear to many attendees the racial discrimination surrounding the situation. Despite the atmosphere, the Black Bike Week attendance continued to increase. In 2015, Black Bike Week had 400,000 attendees versus the 200,000 that came for the Harley-Davidson Week last year. To this day, the event continues to thrive, providing an opportunity for socializing over the love of motorcycling, particularly to a demographic that has been historically underrepresented in such events.

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