AUSTIN — Motorcyclists invaded Austin's 6th Street on Saturday for the Republic of Texas (ROT) Rally.
"ROT Rally! It's fun. A lot of adventure, craziness, a blast," laughed motorcyclist Lonnie Burnsie.
"I come here every year for the camaraderie, my friends. Just the ride and adventure," agreed motorcyclist Joseph Ballin.
Sadly, the ride has already come to an end for three bikers who were killed in the 29 crashes involving motorcycles since Friday. Austin police said a total of 23 people were hospitalized, with 16 serious injuries.
Around 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Austin police said a motorcyclist was killed after a Lexus sedan turned into his path on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Walnut Street.
At 12:33 a.m. Saturday, another cyclist lost control of his bike on West Koening Lane in front of the City of Austin Utility Office.
The first fatal accident associated with the rally happened Friday morning. A 50-year old man was killed after losing control of his bike and falling over the Highway 290 flyover at Interstate 35. He plummeted 40 feet to the ground below.
"I sympathize with the families, with the fallen riders," Ballin said.
"Unfortunately, we've had the three and we are praying and hoping that we don't have any more," said Austin Senior Police Officer Dennis Farris
Officer Farris said in both of Saturday's accidents, neither of the motorcyclists were wearing helmets.
"In the crash on Koening, early this morning, if that rider would have been wearing a helmet, there's a possibility he would have survived his injuries," Farris said.
"We choose as individual riders not to wear them or to wear them. So it's something that we know when we get on this machine that that's something we have to deal with," Ballin said.
Still, bikers ask that drivers give them a little more space on the road.
"Just have a little patience," Ballin added. "I understand that we as bikers sometimes get a little or a lot carried away, we sometimes think we own the road."
Police say motorists and bikers alike need to slow down.
"People are driving too fast, not paying attention and getting careless," Burnsie said.
"It's not a race," added Ballin. "You're not trying to get somewhere as fast as you can. It's to enjoy, again it's to enjoy the sights, the beautiful city. Enjoy the friends around you, the people that you're meeting and to make it to the next day."
While police say they hope there won't be any more accidents, they are preparing for them. Comparing this year's fatalities to last year's during ROT Rally, there were a total of three fatalities for the entire weekend in 2011. And from 2007 to 2010, there were only four.