Prince George’s fire chief criticizes local street bikers after Beltway slowdown

WASHINGTON — Days after the Capital Beltway buzzed with speeding motorcyclists, ATV and dirt bike riders, a local fire chief is still fuming.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said his firefighters and EMTs respond to more than 350 motorcycle wrecks a year. He watched footage of Sunday’s ride thinking, “These are more people we’ll be picking up off the street.”

The bikers, many responding to a social media announcement of a “Sunday Funday” ride on Dec. 27, clogged roadways — from the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County to U.S. 50 and Interstate 295.

They alarmed motorists trapped by the resulting traffic mess.

Some of the participants in Sunday’s ride wrote on social media that they were out to have fun, but Bashoor sees it differently: “To see these people out there putting themselves in harm’s way, putting other people in harm’s way and thinking that it’s ‘just fun’ — that just made me angry.”

Aside from the potential threat, Bashoor says, there’s an economic impact to every incident on the Beltway. Some 1.5 percent of the nation’s gross national product goes up and down I-95 every day, he said.

“That’s all kinds of commerce going up and down that road, and every time you affect that road, it’s another hit in the gut to our businesses and of our communities and the people who depend on those deliveries.”

Bashoor said the biggest problem is the threat to public safety posed by the type of riding that took place Sunday. Reckless and dangerous riding by clusters of motorcycle and sport-bike operators has been a long-standing problem, but Sunday’s ride was on a much larger scale than incidents of the past.

“I’m afraid it’s going to take some of them having to go visit the morgue to identify their family member or one of their friends,” Bashoor said.

“Or having to stand on the stoop and tell a mom or a dad that it was their child that died in a wreck. I’m afraid it’s going to take one of those things to happen before it really sinks in to these people that this is the wrong thing to do.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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