NH officials hope for safety records for bike week
LACONIA, N.H.—Preparing to kickoff of the 89th annual Motorcycle Week, law enforcement officials said Thursday they hope to see this year's event surpass the public safety records set in 2011.
Officers from the New Hampshire State Police as well as the Laconia, Gilford and Meredith police departments said they are working together to see that riders follow laws and stay safe when "bike week" officially begins Saturday.
"I don't think there's been a safer environment that has involved every level of person involved in Motorcycle Week, from business owners to the Department of Transportation to not only the state police, but all the law enforcement agencies we work so closely with," said Maj. Russ Conte of the state police. "We're making sure everybody gets here safely and gets home safely."
The Weirs Beach-based Motorcycle Week is the nation's third-largest bike rally, and the largest in the northeast. This year's event takes place from June 9 to 17 and features a swap meet, rodeo and vintage motorcycle show, plus races and tours.
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that arrests during Motorcycle Week were at an all-time low last year, and no motorcycle fatalities occurred in the city.
"It takes a lot of people to get that number to zero, including the people who attend this event, who are becoming responsible," Adams said. "If they've had too much to drink, they call a taxi or walk. It is a group effort that goes into that low number, and we hope that this year we see it again."
Officers urged event participants to drive within the speed limits and refrain from operating their motorcycles under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
So far in 2012, there have been six motorcycle fatalities in the state, up from three by this point last year, said Highway Safety Agency coordinator Peter Thomson. There were 14 motorcycle deaths in total during 2011.
"If we go back to 2005, there were 42 motorcycle fatalities for the year," said Thomson. "That took up one quarter of the all the fatalities in the state of New Hampshire. We've been doing something right."
Gov. John Lynch thanked Laconia's city government and law enforcement officials for hosting the annual event and ensuring it runs smoothly.
"Law enforcement does a great job not only ensuring public safety but making sure people feel welcome to Motorcycle Week as well," he said.
The Laconia Motorcycle Week Association presented Lynch with its Fritzie Baer Award, given each year to a dedicated supporter of the event.
The association's executive director Charlie St. Clair said Lynch "really pulled a lot of rabbits out of his hat for us, and did not have to do that."