75th Sturgis Rally Could Approach One Million Bikers
Officials in the Black Hills say they expect 750,000 to one-million people at this year’s 75th annual Sturgis Rally. Part of that total number depends on how you count. Officials say they are seeing an increase in bikers before and after the rally that can increase the overall count. The inflow of visitors means local residents have to deal with something they’re not always used to, traffic.
There are lots of cities in America that have more people than all of South Dakota. That is until the Sturgis Rally comes along, during Sturgis roads designed for small town traffic start seeing big city numbers.
“We only have so many lanes of roads, and there is only have so many vehicles that can fit on those lanes, and when you try and fit more than they can hold you start getting a lot of congestion and a lot of frustrated people,” says Monica Heller a Traffic Engineer with the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
Traffic engineers, like Heller, are working to find ways to reduce congestion and frustration and to increase safety. The DOT is doing some new things this year including a warning system when interstate traffic slows or stops near busy highway exits.
“We’re going to have message boards and we’ll have a warning system in place that will sense the speed of the traffic on the interstate. If it’s slowing down to 15-20 miles an hour then a mile advance of that there will be a message board to let people know to watch for stopped traffic ahead. So, it’s not like they’ll come over a hill or around a curve and all of the sudden come up a line of stopped traffic. We’re going to try and give them a warning,” says Heller.
Heller says while there is no crystal ball the 75th rally could draw record breaking numbers. But she says the extra numbers this year could come the week before the rally starts. She adds that it’s important for locals to practice patience and safety.
“I know it’s frustrating it may take 15 minutes or a half hour longer to get someplace but the last thing you want to do is get injured or hurt somebody else,” says Heller.
The official start of the 2015 Sturgis Rally is August 3rd. Visitor industry officials say Sturgis related items are already selling in the Black Hills with a number of rally related vendors who set-up early.