The numbers don’t lie, and official traffic counts confirm that a heck of a lot of people rode into the Black Hills of South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this year.
Since 1990 (the 50th Rally), the South Dakota Department of Transportation has kept track of the number of vehicles entering the city of Sturgis during the rally. They set up “counters” at nine different entrances to the city, most off major highways. According to an SDDOT report, “Portable road tube counters are used at each location. The counters record one vehicle for every two axles that hit the road tube.”
The report compiled information from 2011-2020. Unfortunately, the full report for this year’s 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally won’t be complete until the event is up on Sunday, August 15. In the meantime, though, DRGNews.com compiled some early information about the opening weekend of the rally.
Per the news outlet, on the opening day on Friday, Aug. 6, about 55,326 vehicles entered the city. This is 11% more than 2020’s opening day numbers, though it’s 13.2% less than the 75th rally that occurred in 2015.
Even more people poured into the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Saturday, Aug. 7. Reportedly, 67,482 entered the city, which is 23.1% more than last year but 18% less than 2015. Similar numbers emerged for Sunday, Aug. 8, with 65,771 entering the city. While Sunday’s total is up 17.1% from last year, it’s down by more than 27% from the 2015 rally.
DRGNews eventually calculated three-day totals for the 2021, 2020, and 2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. By this count, almost 30,000 more vehicles rode into town this year than last year. But this year’s opening weekend total is still about 48,000 less than the 2015 total.
But that doesn’t mean that fewer people will show up overall. Multiple people can ride on one vehicle, after all. And reports estimate that as many as 700,000 people could show up by the end of the rally.
Law Enforcement Officials Say This Is ‘Busiest’ Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Years
Several people have noted how massive the crowds seem to be at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Meade County Sherrif’s Office and Sturgis City Police are especially keeping a close eye on things.
“There are more people here than in the 31 years I’ve been doing this,” Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin told Rapid City Journal.
It’s interesting that he says that when the SDDOT report claims that almost 750,000 vehicles entered the city back in 2015. But since then, the number of participants has kept pretty low, in the 460-500,000s.
More people this year also means more traffic incidents for the Sheriff’s Office. In the first few days alone, the number of traffic incidents doubled from last year to this year.
“I don’t know what it is this year, but it seems people are in a hurry to get here and are causing all kinds of traffic issues,” Merwin said. “We are asking the public to please follow our traffic laws and be safe out there.”