The event this year was more controversial than ever.
Just about everyone seems to have an opinion about Biketoberfest being held in 2020, especially after all the controversy surrounding the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this year. Some are calling it a “superspreader event” while others contend that celebrating the freedom of riding on two wheels isn’t going to harm anyone. And there were those who arrived in Daytona Beach wearing masks and keeping their distance from others. Welcome to motorcycle events in 2020.
Biketoberfest certainly has been the subject of controversy in the past, just like Daytona Bike Week and other motorcycle gatherings. There’s an aura of lawlessness in some people’s eyes, plus there’s plenty of raucous behavior certain residents don’t enjoy. At the same time, the event is a major money-maker for Daytona Beach and the surrounding area, so it’s a double-edged sword.
At the beginning of the weekend, local news outlets were reporting that traffic was light and business at restaurants, hotels, etc. was slow. Some people who would otherwise attend Biketoberfest might be staying away out of fear of catching or spreading the virus. Others might be discouraged by the few restrictions in place by the city. The biggest restriction is that outdoor vendors and music performances which normally are part of the event couldn’t receive permits.
Despite concerns, Daytona Police couldn’t force people at Biketoberfest to cover their faces or socially distance. However, there were signs encouraging the preventative measures and Safety Girls booths where bikers could have sanitizer squirted on their hands.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said, “We are not the social distancing police and we’re not the mask police.” While law enforcement wasn’t handing out tickets for virus-related behavior, they were still keeping the peace and addressing any violence, property damage, etc.
Several local business owners told different news outlets they were hoping for a big turnout. With shutdowns and people staying home, many are facing a financial crisis. Strong attendance for Biketoberfest might be the last best hope they have of keeping their doors open and lights on.
Numerous posts on Twitter show streets with moderate to little traffic. Normally, there would be so many motorcycles going both ways it would look like a constant parade, plus more bikes parked on the sides of the road. You can compare that scene to video of last year’s event, which was packed, and gauge just how much attendance might have been down.
Different media outlets covered Biketoberfest in completely different ways, so people’s views of the annual gathering being held in 2020 could be shaped by that. For example, the New York Post emphasized how “crowded” the event usually is and highlighted how people ignored what Daytona City officials warned about the event being a “superspreader” for the virus.
Of course, the media attention given to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held as always in South Dakota has only added fuel to the fires of controversy with Biketoberfest. Reportedly, bikers descending on Sturgis resulted in over 260,000 COVID-19 cases. It’s useful to know that an estimated 360,000-plus people attended the 7-day event. Estimates for Biketoberfest, which lasts 4 days, is that about 100,000 showed. Read into that whatever you will, because everyone seems eager to find whatever facts will suit their opinion of whether motorcycle events of any kind should or should not be held this year.
You can check out Sturgis 2020 in the video below. Disclaimer: it's definitely a PG-13 video:
For a comparison, here's video of Biketoberfest 2019. Disclaimer: also a PG-13 video:
While Biketoberfest is expected to lead to more COVID-19 cases, according to local health officials, none of those officials seem willing to speculate on if it would then increase the number of COVID-related deaths. Some estimate a public health cost of billions, while others claimed the study which generated that figure wasn’t even close to accurate. In other words, Biketoberfest was more controversial than ever and for reasons we couldn’t have possibly predicted last year.