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Posts Tagged ‘Buffalo Chip’

Random-CheckpointIn Oregon non-DOT motorcycle helmets are ALLOWED by definition under ORS 801.366.  See page #59 (HERE).

Independent of your views on the usage of these helmets, many riders would agree that motorcycle-ONLY safety checkpoints are inappropriate.  Yet in spite of the activism and involvement from the motorcycle community to stop or prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-ONLY checkpoints the progress hasn’t always been favorable.

Case in point is the Court of Appeals for the New York Second Circuit which backed roadblocks for the purpose of issuing motorcycle citations.

The back story is that in 2007, the New York State Police began using federal taxpayer grant money to target these motorcyclists with the stated objective “to detect motorcycle safety violations and ensure proper registration and operator compliance with New York State’s motorcycle license requirements.  The first roadblock was set up on October 7, 2007 to hit participants returning from a motorcycle rally nearby in Connecticut. Signs were posted on Interstate 84 ordering motorcycle riders to “exit ahead” while a uniformed police officer directed traffic into a rest area. From there, a total of 280 motorcyclists were detained and forced to undergo “full-blown inspections” that generated 104 traffic tickets. The most common citation was for improper helmet.

In 2008, a total of 17 roadblocks were held, detaining 2278 motorcyclists who were issued 600 tickets for infractions that had nothing to do with safety. Another 365 citations were issued for use of an unapproved helmet. Several detained bikers sued the state police after they were detained 45 minutes or more.

In U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe rejected the motorcyclists’ argument that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to this case.  To get around the constitutional need for individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before a seizure, courts have created a “special needs” doctrine that allows roadblock programs serving a particular government need.

In this situation, the state produced statistics that showed motorcycle fatalities dropped 17 percent in the same year that motorcycle helmet ticketing increased 2175 percent, and Judge Sharpe agreed this was proof that the roadblock’s primary purpose was safety. The courts then must balance whether the government need to enhance safety is greater than the interference with individual liberty.

The appellate judges agreed with the lower court’s analysis that it was:  “Applying this balancing test, we conclude that the well catalogued public interest in highway safety is well served by the safety checkpoint program and outweighs the interference with individual liberty in this case,” the second circuit ruled in a brief, summary opinion. “Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that there was no constitutional violation.” A copy of the summary order of November 29, 2012 is at: Wagner v. Sprague (US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 11/29/2012).

I choose to wear a DOT approved helmet, but I dislike discriminatory checkpoints.  Have you been to the Laughlin River Run lately and rode out to Oatman, Arizona on the Oatman-Topock Highway?  How about return to the hotel from a concert at the Buffalo Chip during Sturgis week?  Random LEO check points are the norm.  Officers invade your personal space to check for alcohol.

Could Oregon be next to implement similar “safety” initiatives?  Hopefully not, but you might recall that at an ABATE rally in Olympia, WA a few years ago it become a photo op for “profiling” riders and law enforcement writing down license plate information (video HERE).  In 2011, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5242  which outlaws profiling of motorcyclists and earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law California Bill AB 1047 which outlaws motorcycle only checkpoints.

If motorcycle only checkpoints raise your blood pressure then write or ride to the Oregon capitol in February and talk to your state legislators.  Explain to them that there is no reason why anybody in any state should be profiling any particular group including motorcyclists and you want them to stop it.

Photo courtesy Doug Chanco.  The 2012 Biker Rally at the Capitol HERE.

UPDATE:  Added the link to Oregon helmet law history HERE.

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By now the campground dust has settled after the 70th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which brought thousands of motorcyclists and music fans to the legendary Buffalo Chip.

There were raucous crowds mixed with top tier entertainment at the “Chip” this year.  Even Pee Wee Herman lived through it to write on a blog for The Huffington Post about his experience.  See his video HERE.  But, overall it cemented the venue as one of the better entertainment locations with an array of art, vendors, food and people gawking (responsibly of course!).  The selection of musical guests resulted in one of the biggest music festivals of its kind in South Dakota. Doing a bit of name dropping, the entertainment included; Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Motley Crue, the Scorpions, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, Lee Rocker, Tesla, Drowning Pool, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Guess Who, Trailer Choir, Buckcherry, Orianthi, Stone Sour, Jason Aldean, Williams & Ree and Disturbed.

But here’s the rub… there were a lot of people going to/from the Chip.  I was part of the 5 mile commute from town to the campground traffic jam that ran from the Buffalo Chip to I-90 on Tuesday night (August 10th) as rally-goers sat on over heating motorcycles for a couple of hours on what locals call the annual “biker crawl” to catch the Bob Dylan/Kid Rock show.

The Chip celebrated it’s twenty-ninth year of operation.  That’s twenty-nine years of motorcyclists trapped in wicked heat and traffic grid lock.  There’s no excuse for an experience like this.  In Sturgis there were NO law enforcement officers directing traffic nor were there any Buffalo Chip staff.  Just grid lock. What went wrong and why is there no traffic coordination?  Were people improperly trained?  Did too many people overwhelm the event or have budgets been cut so slim that the job can no longer be done?  It’s a case of pointing fingers.

Bob Dylan at The Buffalo Chip -- 2010

Ron Woodruff is the owner of the Buffalo Chip campground who I’m sure has great pride having overseen the tremendous growth and World Wide recognition the “Chip” has earned as one of the premier concert venues in the mid-west.  Tried to correct this situation, he has and last fall he tried again to get the Meade County commissioners to take corrective action, but the commissioners defeated a Woodruff backed bill which would have set aside money to purchase land for a shortcut from the major campgrounds to I-90.   I’m sure the meeting went something like this: “We don’t need no road that will only be used for two weeks out of the year. It will kill the vendors who depend on Main and Lazelle traffic for their business.”

The dust settles on "The Chip"

But as a business, the Sturgis town council and the Buffalo Chip should never be happy when people attend the rally, put down hard earned money for music concerts and have a bad experience for any reason.  It’s a simple situation.  How many times a year can someone afford to drop $300 for two people to go to a concert, drink a few beers, eat a Gyro and buy a t-shirt?  Not many.  So, they need to listen to the customer and make changes.   How about traffic police coordination? How about traffic alerts?  Or Twitter updates on the expected delays or reasons?  How about park and ride buses with express lanes?  Something.  Anything!

And while I’m on this rant… how about that lame video set up on the Chip stage?   Hey Ron, 1979 called and said they want their VCR camcorder back!  Are margins so tight that a short-term rental of a couple video JumboTrons for people to see the artists or the Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Contest be out of question?  Lastly, there use to be a TV segment on ABC called the “Fleecing of America”… I suggest a segment called the Sturgis “Fleecing of Every Motorcycle Music Fan?”  You see those stop signs that help create the grid-lock, become after the Chip concert, mixed with Monkey Rock and Full Throttle motorcyclists into a law enforcement sobriety stop as police officers stood in the street wafting for alcohol with their scientifically trained nose.  When they found an offence they processed tickets speedier and more efficient than the Hertz rental car return!

Were there irresponsible riders?  Oh yeah, and many of those who participated a bit more than others caught a free ride out of the traffic jam.  Yep, the Chip truly captures the essence of the motorcycle lifestyle, but it’s time for some changes.

Photo’s taken at the Buffalo Chip.

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Posse at the 70th Sturgis Rally

STURGIS is STURGIS — Since 1938 the Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with some exceptions during WWII, for example the gasoline rationing in 1942.

And as a result, a lot about Sturgis remains nearly the same year after year after year.  There are the RVs, tents, vendors, concerts, people watching and lots of motorcycles.  And did I already say there is a lot of people?  Every year they try to make it bigger, better and fancier.  In fact, this year the musical lineup included folk icon Dylan to heavy metal pioneer Osbourne along with some Motley Crue and ZZ Top in-between.  Each of the big three camp grounds compete with each other to see who can bring in the more impressive talent.

But there feels like a bit of a metamorphosis at Sturgis.  It’s become noticeably more commercial.  Even the Hells Angels had a booth serving up (for a fee) a Sonny B. book signing along with calendar and t-shirt sales!  The rally has turned a corner toward a concentration of commercialized chrome with a sanitized or reserved atmosphere.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s just about moneymaking which doesn’t interest a lot of folks.

Our group persevered through the changes in rally persona, and spent a couple days at the “humble rumble” (i.e. Sturgis) – enjoying all that the town and surrounding area had to offer up – I departed with only one t-shirt!  The Sturgis population of 6500 hosts a few hundred thousand biking enthusiasts and along the way the economic engine collects about $987M in state tourism for the little celebration.

Capitalism at its finest!  And if you don’t think there are many people in attendance… consider this: NYC has 26,402 people per square mile; Sturgis during rally week has 160,427 people per square mile!

In my estimation there are 3-types of people who come to the Sturgis rally. The CASUAL OBSERVER – who may ride, but most likely does not and spends most of the day in t-shirt shops buying “proof” they were at the ‘mayhem’ or event.  Next is the RECREATIONAL RIDER – some who rode there, but many likely trailered their $35K CVOs.  This group offers up the largest opportunity for the vendor booths as the biker subculture fantasy doesn’t come cheap.  The last group is the RODE MINE whose leather jackets patina match the sunburned faces.  You don’t get that bright red tan while sitt’n in captain seats in the Ford F-series pickup!

Willie G

There might even be another group, those who don’t own rain gear, sport offensive tat’s and do tune ups along the way.  They have a true pulse of the V-Twin and a real sense of brotherhood.  But I’ve digressed.  For most the celebration will come to an end and will need to shave and shower and squeeze back into the cubicle.  In other words, get back to work as were going to need to pay off the August credit card bill!

From my vantage a few highlights were: the Kid Rock concert at the “Chip” (Dylan was totally lame!); face-to-face with Harley executives (Willie G., Bill and Nancy); Mount Rushmore achieved the highest single day attendance record on August 10th; witnessing the ear blasting B1-B Bomber fly over on main street; “The Wall That Heals” (a ½ scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial); the AMD World Championship customs; free Macanudo cigars and the Harley-Davidson booth/crew.

AMD World Championship

Speaking of the H-D booth, I want to provide a shout out to the Milwaukee team for a job well done!  In previous years you’d have to commute to Rapid City to see the new model line-up which many riders passed over.  It was extraordinarily convenient to meander up from the Broken Spoke and talk up new features with the well trained H-D personnel who were genuinely interested in chatting it up with riders.

Now for some of the bad news: the 70th Rally saw about double the number of road deaths/crashes vs. previous year averages.  Nine people were killed in the Sturgis area during the rally.  There were no deaths last year.  This number doesn’t account for fatal wrecks in other states involving motorcyclists on their way as was the situation for an Oregon man who crashed on US 12 near Powell, ID HERE.   Granted the higher number of attendees does contribute to potential crashes, but in many instances the accidents seemed due to inattention.  Early stats indicate that fewer people were arrested for drunken driving, but more for drug violation.  Law enforcement responded to 73 injury accidents and 36 non-injury which was similar to previous years.  Total citations for the 2010 rally were down to 1442 vs. 1803 in 2009.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 3 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

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