NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Groups of dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle riders and bicyclists took over South Florida roadways in a return to a dangerous annual tradition on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that went into the night and resulted in several of them being taken into police custody.
SkyForce HD hovered above the riders on off-road vehicles as they headed south from Broward County and into Miami-Dade, just before 5 p.m., Monday.
The bikers, who came together to be a part of “Wheels Up, Guns Down,” were seen cutting into traffic, popping wheelies and performing other stunts in parts of Miami-Dade.
“We’ve been doing this for, like, eight years now. It’s a community gathering; they come from all over the world,” said participant Dwight Wells. “They come from New York, Texas, you name it, all for a peaceful ride, you know?”
Although most of the off-road vehicles seen on the roadways were not street legal, some participants rode motorcycles and Slingshots, which are legal.
Miami-Dade Police officers took one of the riders into custody in the area of Northwest 79th Avenue and 20th Avenue. It’s unclear whether or not he was placed under arrest.
The group that included the rider who was detained did not seem too worried about the turn of events..
“Hi, Mom!” said one of the riders.
Bicyclists were also seen taking part in the event. About 100 of them were seen riding alongside cars on Interstate 95. Some of the cyclists were seen holding on to vehicles.
That group met around 2 p.m. in downtown Miami and set off around 3 p.m.
In Pembroke Pines, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies tracked the bikers from a command post.
“We’ve kind of gotten a lot better. We’ve evolved and improved, and the biggest thing is just coordination and communication,” said BSO Lt. Jeffrey Mellies.
BSO Sheriff Gregory Tony said this year, they were prepared.
A midday briefing at the command post brought together various law enforcement agencies.
“We’re not going to be pursuing them, but we’ll have eyes on them repeatedly. Then we can make a strategic move to take them down,” said Tony.
That strategy paid off in Davie, where police detained two legal bikers who, they said, were driving recklessly and refused to pull over. When the pair stopped for fuel, they were surrounded by unmarked cruisers and arrested.
Investigators also made one arrest on Southwest Second Street and 31st Avenue near Fort Lauderdale.
But riders were still able to get around street closures by driving through parking lots, and in at least one case, defying a police roadblock.
At one point, a rider abandoned his broken-down dirt bike in the middle of the busy intersection of Pembroke Road and U.S. 441. He then hopped on the rear seat of an ATV that sped away.
A BSO deputy was seen getting out of an unmarked SUV and removing the dirt bike from the road.
In Opa-Locka, one of the riders was asked why he took part in the event.
“It’s like a real tradition for Miami, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “They can’t stop us going our way, so we’re still out here.”
When asked whether he was worried he would get into trouble, the rider replied, “No, man. That’s what comes with life. You’ve got to live a little. You only live once.”
Police officers and state troopers have been strategically placed around South Florida to deal with the bikers and bicyclists.
Just after 6:30 p.m., 7News cameras captured a City of Miami squad car and two Florida Highway Patrol troopers stationed right before the entrance ramp to I-95 from Northwest 62nd Street.
About an hour prior, about 100 bicyclists rode past that area.
Police later shut down Northwest 62nd Street between 17th and 22nd avenues for traffic enforcement, as they kept a watchful eye on the riders.
Dirt bike and ATV riders were seen just west of I-95, near Northwest 79th Street and Seventh Avenue.
However, the groups of riders were considerably smaller than in previous years.
In Miami-Dade, three arrests were made and one bike impounded.
In Broward, there were seven arrests and seven rides impounded.
New bills currently being considered by the Florida Legislature could make this activity have even stiffer consequences in 2023.
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