Bike Week is coming, coronavirus or not
It was easy to understand the concerns of Zone 1 Daytona Beach City Commissioner Ruth Trager as she cast the only no vote Wednesday against approving outdoor vendor permits for Bike Week.
“I understand the merchants need to get money for employees, yet I have gotten a bunch of phone calls and emails from residents concerned for their health. This variant going around is even more contagious than last year,” she said.
True enough. The pandemic won’t be through with us when Bike Week rolls into town on March 5. That makes it the wrong time to invite crowds to pack the streets.
Unfortunately, Bike Week would likely move ahead with or without the city agreeing to vendor permits – as we saw with last year’s Biketoberfest. Bike Week events are not limited to the city of Daytona Beach. Refusing the permits would invite indoor crowding up and down Main Street, a situation custom-made for faster and wider virus spread.
“If we deny the permits, then they’re going to be packed inside like sardines,” Mayor Derrick Henry observed before voting with the commission majority to allow the permits.
At least the commission decided to use what leverage it has to force businesses with outdoor vendor permits to cut their indoor capacity to 60%. This would allow for more social distance between patrons and would be marginally safer for everyone. At least it will if it’s obeyed, which is no sure thing.
This restriction would not apply, however, to businesses that aren’t applying for special permits. They can still pack them in despite the danger of spreading the disease.
It would have been better if the city had more power to impose conditions like masking and reduced occupancy on businesses across town. Sadly, those powers were restricted by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ emergency orders last September. The city was allowed a mandatory mask ordinance only briefly last year.
Under normal circumstances, the 80th anniversary of Bike Week would be a big event. But under the current conditions, we may consider ourselves fortunate if fewer people than usual show up. That seems likely, because not everyone feels safe joining the party. Especially in a crowd that skews toward the 65-and-older demographic that the disease hits hardest.
So welcome, bikers … for Bike Week 2022. This year, however, you might want to skip the event.
Those who do show up anyway should at least try to stay outdoors. And wear masks, a piece of apparel that has not been much in evidence at other motorcycle festivals last year.
For an area with an economy that depends on visitors, more normal times cannot arrive too soon. And yet the very things that will hasten that day’s return — mask-wearing, avoiding indoor crowds, keeping distance from other people — get short-sighted pushback from a pandemic-weary public and from business owners who are hurting. Vaccinations, too, promise to bring back future Bike Weeks but are rolling out too slowly to help things in time for this year’s events season.
The Daytona Beach City Commission faced a no-win decision in going forward this year: Vote against the permits and be blamed for the loss of jobs and business; vote for the permits and appear to be sanctioning a potential super-spreader event. A lose-lose proposition.