Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 15th, 2011 at 1:17 am
In case you haven’t heard, a 10-mile stretch of I-405 in of Los Angeles — one of the busiest freeways in the country — is set to close Friday through Monday. The project has transcended transportation and has become a spectacle before it has even started. Dubbed “Carmageddon,” it is dominating headlines throughout the area as people brace for unknown consequences of having a main traffic artery completely cut off for 53 hours (unfortunately, the LAPD squashed hopes for big block parties, parades, and bike rides on the freeway during the closure).
For those of you interested in transportation culture, this is a fascinating case study.
What will happen to all the traffic? Will it lead to “the mother of all traffic jams”? Or will people heed the warnings from officials and simply stay home? Or, will it really be no big deal?
“Stay home” is what officials (and paid celebrities like Erik “Ponch” Estrada) are urging Los Angelenos to do. It’s as if, without a freeway to drive on, mobility is impossible.
That’s where JetBlue Airways comes in. In a brilliant PR stunt, JetBlue offered $4 flights between Long Beach and Burbank (pay $1 more and you can go first class) as part of their “Over-the-405” special. The 600 tickets sold out in three hours.
Then something awesome happened.
Bike activists started chatting amongst themselves, then on Twitter, then an idea took root. Could someone riding a bike beat JetBlue? Late this afternoon, the informal chatter became a real event. With JetBlue as a willing participant, members of the Wolfpack Hustle (an L.A. bike club known for high-speed riding) will race a flight from Burbank to Long Beach to see who’s faster.
Fun and games aside, this event is a big opportunity for advocacy. Many people are using it to shine a light on L.A.’s car abuse problem and are offering alternative visions.
Stay tuned for the end of the world as Los Angelenos know it. There’s even an official countdown clock…