For those who were not following the live #FlightVsBike hashtag updates yesterday, our little race of bikes against a JetBlue aircraft blew up in a way that far exceeded any of my initial expectations. It was an idea borne out of the Twittersphere, and carried into reality thanks to help from the infamous Roadblock and the racers of Wolfpack, Joe Anthony of Bike Commute News, and a supporting cast of volunteers from L.A.'s bike culture. It drew attention from a lot of blogs and internet news as I had expected, but it also attracted a lot more mainstream media attention than I had anticipated. Thanks in part to the behind the scenes work of my wife Meghan Kavanagh working media contacts and sending out press releases.
The idea from the very beginning was to demonstrate the viability of bikes as a real mode of transportation, poke a little fun at the delay of going through airports, and the unnecessary fear of being told to stay home as though life could not go on without cars with the 405 was shut down. At the last moment I decided to throw in a twist as well. I took a combination of bike and public transit to get to the race start at Chandler Blvd and Cahuenga Blvd, and it got me thinking that we could make it 3 way race and commuter challenge by having a public transit user in the race. L.A.'s public transit system may be behind some of the other mega cities of the world, with needed improvements on the way, but it often does not get enough credit for what it is already able to do. As well as how many people already ride it.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to really highlight all the transportation alternatives with this event, and Metro is offering free fare on many lines for this Carmageddon weekend. The route of North Hollywood and Burbank to Long Beach is ideally suited to both bicycling and transit. There is train service, with heavy rail subway, and light-rail above ground, all the way to Downtown Long Beach. There is also the often overlooked L.A. River, which reaches down into Long Beach and features a bike path with miles and miles of smooth riding and no traffic signals.
|(I took the Red Line subway from the NoHo station and transferred to the Blue Line to Long Beach at the DTLA 7th St. Station)|
|(Once I was above ground again I started catching up with Twitter updates and plotting walking route)|
|Wolfpack victory toast after the race.|
I''ll be posting more on this later, my experience as the transit racer, and going through some of my photos and video, as I'm sure many others involved will be doing. Joe over at Bike Commute News is hard at work putting together more info, and Ted Rogers of BikingInLA, always a master of linking things, has a compilation of links of some of the media coverage (P.S. the event was also hyped on the Rachel Maddow show as well). Bicycle culture magic maker and photographer Richie Thomassen assembled a team of cinematographers and gear to capture footage of the Wolfpack racers, and I can't wait to see the final cut of what comes out of this, but that may take some time.
So while the political figures of Los Angeles urged staying in our homes, we went out and had a blast traveling all across this great sprawling Metropolis on an absolutely gorgeous day. For us and many others in L.A., the dreaded Carmageddon became a holiday, one that never produced the feared traffic jams, and something I wish we could do again sometime. As the comedian Thomas Lennon put it on Twitter, "Apparently the 405 operating normally was the thing that was ruining LA. #nicestdayoftheyear". A sentiment that seem shared by a lot of folks, since it was retweeted and commented upon by many. Here's to hoping as we move forward in L.A., we can move past freeway expansion projects like the one expanding the 405 right now (a billion dollars for a few miles of carpool lane), and start having a rational discussion of transportation choices beyond cars.