How Baltimore City police dealt with speeding bikers

WASHINGTON — When ATV, sportbike and motorcycle riders swarmed across the Inner Loop of the Beltway last Sunday, weaving between cars and clocking in at speeds of more than 110 mph, plenty of drivers wondered where the police were. 

Since Sunday’s ride, Maryland State Police have said often by the time they are called out, speeding bikers are long gone, and that engaging in chases can make things more dangerous on the roads.

But that still left many motorists wondering if the highways would just be left to riders who felt they could do what they want—including blocking traffic.

Maryland State Police Spokeswoman Elena Russo said on Thursday that they have been getting lots of calls and emails about bikers on the Inner Loop, U.S. Route 50 and Interstate 295—and that some of the social media postings and videos are proving very helpful. Russo says they will seek to prosecute.

In Baltimore City, police had a similar problem—although on a smaller scale. “The problem we had was dirt bikes: illegal, unregistered and in many cases stolen dirt bikes,” says TJ Smith, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department.

It was a longstanding problem built around a bike culture, Smith says. The draw was the trick-riding that the dirt bike riders would perform as they cruised and sped through and around Druid Hill Park.

“There were people from outside of Baltimore, from the surrounding counties and even other states that were coming to Druid Hill Park,” Smith says.

According to Smith, part of the problem was that spectators thought it was a sanctioned event by the city and the police department.

Police took a two-pronged approach to address the problem. The first part was launching an education effort to let people know that kind of riding was, in fact, illegal, Smith says. The second approach was more logistical.

“We literally shut down some lanes of traffic to slow traffic as it came through, which didn’t allow the dirt bike riders to get up to the speeds that they wanted to get up to,” he says.

Riders were no longer interested in being in the area after police implemented strategies to appease traffic and reduce the crowd of spectators, Smith says.

Although those tactics tactics worked in Baltimore City, he says, they likely won’t work for the Beltway, which is geared to high volume and relatively high speed traffic.

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