The Lone Star Rally gets underway today in numerous spots around Galveston. This will be the 16th year the island has played host to the thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts who are expected to attend. And as is the case every year, there will be plenty of events for bikers and the bikeless alike.
Organizers say the rally is the largest free four-day motorcycle event in North America and includes contests, concerts and attractions. Something like 250,000 motorcycles of various kinds are expected to visit the island during the event.
In some years, there have been numerous fatal motorcycle accidents in the county during the rally. In the past couple of years, however, there’s been a sharp downward trend in those and we want that to be the story at the end of this rally, as well.
To help you stay safe, we thought we’d offer a few reminders about riding in Galveston.
Trolley tracks: As any rider knows, these tracks are not your friend. Get a tire in that track and there is a good chance you are going down.
Cobblestone streets: Cobblestone is hard to ride on to begin with. Add a little moisture and they become quite slippery, especially if you are trying to make a turn.
Broadway intersections: Making left turns at most intersections on Broadway will leave you scratching your head. Turn into the median — don’t be alarmed when two cars, or a couple of bikes, pull alongside you. Come to a complete stop. If it is safe to cross do so, even if the light is red.
Seawall Boulevard: Motorcyclists like to remind automobile drivers to share the road and that’s good advice. It’s good for bikers to remember that they’ll be sharing Seawall Boulevard and its environs with people on foot, people on bicycles and people pedaling other kinds of conveyances. The speed limit is 35 mph everywhere east of 61st Street; it used to be 40 mph. U-turns are illegal and there are two new crosswalks between the 5000 and 5200 blocks of Seawall Boulevard. Pedestrians have the right of way in those. There are new bus stops, some of which have curbs that protrude into the parking lane. If you drive in the parking lane, you might hit one of those curbs.
Construction zones: There are road construction zones all over Galveston this year. The downtown area, where a lot of rally events are staged, is, for practical purposes, one big roadwork zone, for example.
Drinking and riding: Don’t do it; it’s dumb. This also will be a “no refusal weekend,” so if an officer suspects you’re riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you can be forced to submit blood for testing.
Wear a helmet: We have all heard the argument that helmets aren’t cool. But what’s really not cool is someone having to notify your loved ones about your untimely death. Protect that noggin, it’s the only one you have.
Be courteous to residents: Remember that while you’re here having a great time hanging out on the island with thousands of like-minded people, many residents still have to trudge off to work every morning. Racing your bike down the street at 2 a.m. may be thrilling for you, but for the guy trying to get a little shut-eye — well, not so much.
Galveston is a great place to slow down and relax. Take advantage of the laid-back vibe, take it easy, be safe.
• Michael A. Smith