ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)--Sport bike fans will be converging on St. Louis this holiday weekend despite efforts by police last year to restrict motorcycle stunt riding on interstates.
Local police departments will again mount a coordinated effort with the Missouri Highway Patrol and MODOT to keep the roadways safe.
"The Ride of the Century" is sponsored by a St. Louis firm Streetfighterz Productions. It has grown over the past decade to one of the largest sport bike rides in the nation even drawing some riders from overseas.
Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald Johnson pointed to a flyer he said describes the weekend like "playing a game." Johnson said riders try to evade policeand that adds danger to the traffic. "There is an intent to cause chaos; there is an intent to disrupt the flow of traffic," Johnson said.
Co-owner of Streetfighterz, James Vaughn issued a statement saying, " the intent and purpose of the ride has never been to cause chaos and mayhem on the roads, but instead have an event where people and motorcyclists with similar interests could come together and share a passion for motorcycles." The statement went on to urge participants to be respectful of other motorists and obey all traffic laws while riding.
Sport bike rider Jason Cadell attended the police news conference and objected to the characterization of the bike riders. "We're not criminals," he said pointing out "the few who are disruptive are bringing a bad reputation to everybody."
A St. Charles County motorcycle dealer, Big St. Charles Motorsports, provided an area for stunt performers on the dealership land last year. But the owner changed his mind this year after the Highway Patrol set up a check point for all motorcycle riders across the street from the dealership on West Clay.
"We made a decision to pull back and not have a sport bike day that day because we felt like we would be harassing a good majority of our customers by having something like that take place," said general manager Terry MacCauley. Even customers of their adjoining St. Charles Harley Davidson showroom were stopped last year. MacCauley said it came down to a business decision. "This is the toughest decision we've ever had to make because we support motorcycles in every way shape and form." He said their offer of a safe place for stunts kept many off the roads on Saturday, the day before the ride.
Now the ride organizers are trying to find another location where up to four thousand sport bike riders can gather to display their stunts on Saturday.
The main ride is scheduled for 2pm Sunday, September 1 to begin on the St. Louis Riverfront at the graffiti flood wall at the foot of Chouteau St.
As of Wednesday afternoon the Facebook page for The Ride of the Century continued to show photos of riders doing stunts including riding on one wheel in traffic.
Police plan to issue tickets for careless and imprudent driving if bike riders violate traffic laws including traveling the wrong way on an interstate. They are also prepared to seize bikes that don't meet the law or they find were stolen.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said there are real dangers. He described an accident last year on I-270 near Butler Hill in which a rider fell off while standing up on the back seat of his bike. He was run over by a pickup truck and barely escaped death. The accident left the truck driver in shock thinking he had killed a young person. The accident was witnessed by a police officer.
Capt. Johnson was also on duty in 2012. "Last year there were motorcycles all over the place making unsafe maneuvers, cutting in front of our patrol cars and going the wrong way in front of other motorists," he said.
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