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Bikes vs. Plane: Who Wins On 'Carmageddon' Day?

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As you may have heard, JetBlue is taking advantage of the Carmageddon craziness to offer special $4 flights from Burbank to Long Beach for those looking to escape the traffic snarled city below. Kind of a cool idea. But an LA cycling group called the Wolfpack Hustle came up with an even better one: race!

That's right, cyclists want to race a JetBlue plane 38.2 miles from Burbank to Long Beach. And according to Joe Anthony of Bike Commute News it's on.

"JetBlue has gracefully accepted the challenged and has offered me a seat on a flight from Burbank to Long Beach on Saturday. The JetBlue flight departs from Burbank Airport Saturday July 16 at 12:20 PM."

I called JetBlue to make absolute sure this thing was for real.

"They're racing us," a JetBlue spokesperson was quick to clarify. "But we agreed that if they wanted to, it would be fine with us."

Here's how it will go down: Anthony will be the one racing against the Wolfpack Hustle in the plane. He'll be taking video and tweeting throughout the flight. Meanwhile a crew on the ground will be documenting the riders.

Here are the rules of the race:

  • Cyclists will depart the Burbank Airport (exact location TBD - Likely an exit gate for vehicles) at 11:05 AM PST (Saturday, July 16) Flight Departs 12:20pm and we're basing the cyclists' departure time on the airline's recommended passenger arrival time of 1.5 hours before departure. We're making it 1:15 before departure to be fair.
  • Cyclists will be required to follow all traffic laws.
  • The finish line is the entrance of the Long Beach Airport (LGB)
  • Ezra and I will walk, or RUN, from the Jet Blue flight gate to the airport entrance to meet the cyclists.

So who's going to win? During the Tour de France, the best cyclists in the world average around 35 MPH in time trials. So, as good as the Wolfpack Hustle may be, we can assume they'll ride slower than that. Not to mention the bit about following all traffic laws. Stopping at every light from Burbank to Long Beach will undoubtedly slow them down.
The good news for the cyclists is--as you can see from the topo map above--the route is mostly smooth, downhill riding the whole way. If there are any delays, the riders would seem to have a very good chance. If the flight goes hitch-free then the plane should probably win.

But, whatever the result, this is undoubtedly the coolest Carmageddon-related event I've heard about thus far. For anyone else out there thinking of trying a similar ride, JetBlue told me that in honor of the Tour de France, all bikes fly for free on their planes throughout the month of July. So if you're trying to figure out what to do this weekend, ask yourself: what would Freddy Mercury do?


The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the California Endowment.

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