I had the pleasure of being selected to take part in the Jet Blue vs Wolfpack Hustle “race” # Flight vs Bike. Note that the word race is in quotes, as it was not officially sanctioned and it was equal parts race and publicity stunt, with both sides benefiting from the exposure.
I should start off by explaining how the whole thing started. I was approached by a friend a few days prior, with him simply asking “you available to ride Saturday morning?”. I mulled it over, asked what time (easier to commit to rides starting after 8am, particularly if they are close to home), and sure enough, 9:30 in North Hollywood sounded good to me. Fast forward a few hours, and the internet quite literally exploded with details about this ride…it would in fact be a reverse-publicity stunt in response to the $4 fares put out by the Jetblue Airline. The 405 freeway closure, dubbed “Carmageddon” by the press, had the entire county in a panic about the traffic situation over that weekend. The creativity of several bike advocates in collaboration with social media monster, Twitter, spawned the idea of this race.
That morning, I rode the 45 minutes to North Hollywood from my place. Upon showing up, I was greeted by several news vans, donuts, and a bunch of supportive cyclists and friends. It was clear at this point that something special was happening, and no one really knew how much more buzz would be generated. We left the house in North Hollywood at the same time as the JetBlue flight was boarding, immediately settling into a nice rotation with the five other Wolfpack A riders. Stopping at lights was a bit odd, given the race-like atmosphere, but keeping it legal and playing by the rules was part of the agreement. We got a bit lost in downtown Los Angeles, in between bike paths, but the anticipation of getting ever closer to the final 25 mile leg of bike path caused the pace to remain high. On that path however, we were faced with a stiff headwind, leaving the team to struggle—each taking short pulls at the front while we tried to overcome the stiff headwind. While riding we had no idea where the plane was in relation to us, and rode like we were neck and neck. Leaving the bike path, and with less than 500 meters to go, I took a wrong turn and wound up having to “cyclocross” over some stairs and sprint to catch the tail end of our group.The group finished together at the Long Beach Lighthouse to several cheers and a shockingly large ensemble of media.
It was a great experience, much more so than any race I can remember doing. More still, it was a lot of fun to see how a great idea can spark so much interest using the social media tools available to us. In the end, the power of the bike was showcased on a grand stage, and i’m pretty sure we inspired at least a couple Angelenos to throw a leg over a bike and enjoy the day—despite the suggestive doom of CARMAGEDDON.
Photos are all thanks to Velo Images