Each year, the first week after Columbus Day, Daytona Beach hosts what many consider to be the biggest event of the motorcycle riding season: Biketoberfest, or Daytona Bike Week. The event draws more than 100,000 bikers, including racing and motorcycle enthusiasts, to the city and pumps millions of dollars into the local economy. —
With the recent passing of Hurricane Irma, there was some doubt as to whether the city would be able to recover in time to host the event this year, or if Mother Nature would interrupt this 25-year-old event. Happily, the tradition will continue as the local Chamber of Commerce reports that the majority of businesses, attractions, hotels and restaurants had reopened within one week of the storms passing, and the cleanup continues at breakneck speed.
As grand as the bike rally is and as much meaning as it has for both the local economy and the biker community at large, there is a darker side to this story. Coinciding with snowbird season, the influx of mostly retired people from northern climates, the event adds to already congested road conditions and leads to a rise in both vehicular and motorcycle-related accidents on Florida’s highways.
A careful analysis of the data supplied by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, National Highway Safety Traffic Administration and Florida’s Annual Traffic Crash Facts Report shows that the time period beginning the week before the event through the week after sees a distinctive rise in motorcycle/vehicle and motorcycle/pedestrian accidents.
When Melbourne-based personal injury attorney and long-time Biketoberfest participant Brad Sinclair was queried about the findings, he didn’t find them difficult to understand: “You have an influx of older drivers coinciding with a flood of much quicker and more difficult to see motorcycles. That alone is going to cause problems.” He continued, “At the same time, you have to remember that the people coming to the rally are here to have fun. While the majority of the participants are well-behaved and sensible, you are always going to have a certain percentage that overindulges. The larger the crowd, the more that percentage becomes evident. To state it plainly, there are idiots in every crowd, and idiots do dumb things.”
According to National Highway Safety Statistics, Florida has the dubious honor of leading the nation in both motorcycle accidents and motorcycle fatalities each year. The fact that a state with a population of just over 20 million far exceeds larger states such as California (pop. 39 million) in motorcycle deaths points to larger problems. Combining those underlying issues with the mass arrival of thousands of fun seekers and older drivers who may not have the reflexes to deal with the much quicker bikers only exacerbates the situation.
Still, considering the monumental task that such an undertaking as Bike Week entails, it is a wonder more issues don’t arise. According to Cycle World magazine, Daytona tops the list of safest motorcycle rallies in the country. This is a great testament to both those who visit the rally and the organizers of the event itself.
Release ID: 251228