rot rally

Carlo Nasisse for KUT News

On Friday evening, downtown Austin rumbled with the sounds of thousands of motorcyclists converging on Congress Avenue for the annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally.

For 20 years, Austin has hosted the ROT Biker Rally, one of the largest and most highly anticipated events of its kind for bikers and bike enthusiasts. With glossy bikes and unique apparel on full display, the rally, particularly the Friday night parade, offered a showcase of biker culture in all its diversity.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Tens of thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts have descended upon Austin for this year's Republic of Texas Biker Rally, and tonight they'll swarm downtown for a procession that will shut down 54 square blocks.

The bikers will ride along a nearly ten-mile parade route stretching from the Travis County Expo Center all the way to the intersection of Congress and Cesar Chavez. The bikers at the end of the procession won't leave the Expo Center until the first bikers have already arrived at the end of the route.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The Austin Police Department announced today two traffic safety initiatives for this weekend’s Republic of Texas Biker Rally, the largest ticketed-admission motorcycle rally in the United States.

The first initiative, Arrive Alive Central Texas, is a joint venture between APD and 21 other area law enforcement agencies that will increase police presence throughout Austin from Thursday morning until Sunday night. APD is also instituting a "No Refusal" initiative from Friday night until Sunday morning. The two measures are designed to ensure safety on the road from drunk drivers.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Another Republic of Texas Biker Rally has come and gone.

In contrast to years past, this year’s ROT Rally was marred by fewer deaths and injuries. Only one death was reported – on Thursday, when a woman fell off a motorcycle into a guardrail on Interstate 35. Austin/Travis County EMS have listed all its motorcycle incident responses over ROT Rally weekend. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Cesar Chavez Street is now open to eastbound traffic, but one westbound lane is still closed as crews finish work on a sinkhole found this morning.

The cement used to fill the hole has very little water and dries quickly, but is not expected to be fully dry until after rush hour.

Original post (12:17 p.m.): Westbound Cesar Chavez Street is closed from I-35 to Red River after a sinkhole formed near Sabine Street.

courtesy flickr.com/atmtx

The Republic of Texas (ROT) Motorcycle Rally comes to Austin for the 18th time this weekend. It kicks off Thursday morning at the Travis County Expo Center and runs until noon on Sunday.

Several roads close early Friday evening for the event, including Congress Avenue between East 11th Street and Cesar Chavez Street. The ROT Rally Parade will also close roads from the Travis County Expo Center to downtown, beginning around 8 p.m. Friday.

Nasha Lee for KUT News

The 2013 Republic of Texas (ROT) Bike Rally is starting today. And safety is a concern.

According to the Austin Police Department, 2012's ROT Rally weekend saw in 175 crashes, 95 injuries, 104 DWI arrests and five deaths – three of which included motorcycles. 

Emily Donahue for KUT News

Fatalities from traffic crashes in Austin are up this year – especially in incidents involving pedestrians.

After the deaths of three motorcyclists and one pedestrian over the weekend, the number of people killed in Austin crashes has reached 36 on the year. Those deaths coincided with the Republic of Texas Biker Rally.

Half of this year's 36 deaths have been accidents involving pedestrians. That’s up from 41 percent (22 deaths) in 2011 and 20 percent (10 deaths) in 2010. Austin Police say 10 of the pedestrians killed this year were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and one driver was impaired. 

Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Republic of Texas Biker Rally begins tonight and the Austin Police Department expects it to affect downtown traffic.

A motorcycle procession beginning at 8 p.m. will cause partial road closures along the route from the Travis Country Exposition Center, traveling downtown along E. MLK Boulevard, Webberville Road, Oak Springs Road and west on E. 11th Street.

The parade will conclude on Congress Avenue, where full road closures will take place until 3 a.m. between Cesar Chavez and East 11th Street, and between Colorado and Brazos streets.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Republic of Texas Rally riders shared a moment of silence this morning, in a memorial service honoring military and law enforcement members before gearing up for the day's ride.  

The ceremony took place at the Cook-Walden home in Pflugerville. After a blessing of the bikes, riders revved up their engines and took to the highway for this weekend's events.   

flickr.com/atmtx

While motorcycles rev into Austin for this weekend’s Republic of Texas Rally, they’re not the only thing pulling into the region: try ozone.

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas forecasts “Level Orange” ozone levels for this Saturday. That level sits nearly midpoint in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index – making ozone levels unhealthy for adults and children exerting themselves outside, plus asthmatics and people with lung disease.

How to lower ozone levels? The Clean Air Force suggests limiting driving, riding the bus and avoiding idling – highly unlikely scenarios for tens of thousands of cyclists cruising Austin this weekend. 

Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Austin Police Department announced a series of safety measures focused on drunk driving for the annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally. 

The ROT Rally kicks off this Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Travis County Exposition Center in Northeast Austin. Over 40,000 people have registered to attend, and over 100,000 on-lookers are anticipated, according to APD.  ROT is the fourth-largest biker rally of its kind in the United States.       

A “No-Refusal” policy will go into effect at 9 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. on Sunday. Under the policy, police can issue blood search warrants on suspects who refuse to give a breath or blood sample.  Art Acevedo, the Austin Police Chief, hopes that the stringent policy will deter rally goers from making poor decisions while drinking. 

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Austin Police Department held another “No Refusal” weekend on Friday and Saturday nights, meaning officers can request a warrant to draw blood by force if a driver refuses a breathalyzer. It was the first time during the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally that APD implemented the policy. Last year, there were three alcohol-related fatal motorcycle accidents during the ROT Rally.

Here are the numbers from APD:

There were a total of 37 DWI's over the No refusal weekend.

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts are rumbling into town for the Republic of Texas Rally this weekend. At least three traffic accidents involved motorcycles yesterday, so we called Motorcycle Safety Foundation vice president Robert Gladden to get some tips on how to stay safe during the ROT Rally.

The Republic of Texas motorcycle rally gets started tonight and lasts through the weekend. But the major event will be tomorrow's parade into downtown Austin. Last year, we sent out photographer Caleb Bryant Miller to capture the sights and of that parade. Here's what it looked like.