AUSTIN -- One of the biggest parties of the year is ramping up at the Travis County Exposition Center. About 200,000 bikers are expected to attend the Republic of Texas (ROT) Biker Rally over the weekend.
On Friday night the rally will shut down 20 blocks in downtown Austin for a parade on Congress Avenue. The event has benefits for not only motorcycle buffs, but also area businesses. Restaurants expect to see an increase in customers and so will area bike shops. Store owners say the extra profits help sustain the stores through the winter when less people ride.
However, all of those people in one place provide a challenge for police officers and public safety officials.
So far Austin-Travis County EMS crews have responded to six motorcycle related calls.
Thursday morning at 1:21, a man and a woman crashed, causing the woman to be thrown into the guardrail, killing her. The man, who was not wearing a helmet, was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB). He is now in stable condition.
At 4:27 Thursday afternoon, a 58-year-old man riding a motorcycle was hit from behind by another vehicle on the Capital of Texas Highway. He suffered “road rash” and back pain.
Three and a half hours later, a 35-year-old man says he was forced to "lay his motorcycle down" on I-35. The man said he was in extreme pain, but refused to go to the hospital.
Just before 9:00 Thursday night someone driving past a motorcycle near the Expo Center threw something out, hitting the man driving the bike in the head. He suffered head lacerations and possible extremity fractures.
An hour later, a 45-year-old woman at the Expo Center center was hit from behind by a golf cart, causing ankle fractures.
Friday afternoon just after 2:00, several southbound lanes of I-35 were closed after a man riding a motorcycle rode into the back of an SUV. He was taken to UMCB with head and face injuries.
To help prevent additional accidents, Austin police officers are reminding drivers to use caution.
"Look both ways, share the roadway, look twice before you drive off. Most importantly, do not drink and drive," said APD Highway Enforcement Command Lieutenant Robert Richman.
And to make sure drivers are following that advice, APD is stepping up patrols over the weekend. Starting at 9:00 Friday night, Austin police will enforce a no-refusal policy for drivers suspected of driving drunk. If you are pulled over and refuse to take a breath test, officers will get a warrant to draw your blood. The initiative is in effect until Sunday at 5:00 a.m.
Last year, APD arrested 104 people for DWI during the no-refusal weekend for ROT Rally.
Officers are also planning to target aggressive and distracted drivers with the help of 40 other Central Texas law enforcement agencies for the "Arrive Alive" campaign.
"Those are things like speeding, and people not paying attention, following too closely, " explained Lt. Richman.
Officers will also educate drivers and riders during the campaign.
"We found the rally is the perfect time for us to get out and about express a lot of safety concerns in terms of motorcycle safety. We'd like folks to look both ways, share the road, drive responsibly," added Richman.
In 2012, officers say there were 175 accidents. Five people died, and three of those victims were on motorcycles.
Despite that, bikers KVUE spoke with say this is actually one of the safest rallies of this kind that they go to all year.
Shannon Rupert is from Shreveport, LA. She's at the ROT Rally celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband, Leslie. She said, "Last year we didn't really see any trouble whatsoever; no fights, no problems, and we like that."
This is Rick Purdin's eigth ROT Rally. He came to Austin from Killeen. He said, "Everybody here is looking out for each other. Big family here never seen any kind of trouble. A few incidents of people drinking too much but other than that it's great, I love it."
Friday night's big parade leaves from the Travis County Expo Center Friday night at 7:45 p.m.
For a list of road closures due to the rally CLICK HERE.