Have you ever wanted to bike across 26 miles of empty, carless, traffic light–less streets, from Dodger Stadium all the way to the Pacific Ocean? This Sunday, at 5:30 a.m., shortly before the start of the L.A. Marathon, you can.
Wolfpack Hustle's annual marathon crash ride has become a tradition. But in past years the ride has basically been illegal. This year the ride will be, if not sanctioned, at least tolerated by the city. That's a big step up from last year, when officials threatened to arrest the ride's organizer, Don Ward, aka Roadblock.
This year, Ward says, "It should be a lot safer than it has been in the past."
But, as Ward cautions all those rogue cyclists out there, the event is most certainly not a "race." Just a "ride."
For years, the L.A. Marathon's route was a loop. Before the footrace began, an official bike ride was held with corporate sponsorship and everything. But in 2009, the marathon route was changed to a straight shot from Dodger Stadium to the sea, and the bike ride was dropped for fear that thousands of cyclists wouldn't be able to get their bikes home.
"People took that as a challenge," says Ward, who, along with a number of renegade cyclists from Midnight Ridazz, "crashed the course" in the wee small hours. The next year, Ward and his group, Wolfpack Hustle, turned the ride into a race, with the fastest men and women on fixed-gear bikes and freewheels each receiving winner dogtags.
By 2011, 3,000 to 4,000 cyclists were riding in the crash race, tearing across the barren streets, the vast majority of them not so much racing as partying.
Last year, less than a week before the race, the city threatened to shut them down, telling Ward that he would be arrested if he continued to organize the bicycle race without a permit.
Ward immediately announced the event was canceled. But angry cyclists responded by posting defiant messages online, vowing to crash the crash course, and the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board clucked, "It's a shame that city officials didn't sit down and talk with Ward about this, oh, at least 45 days ago." The ride did in fact take place, with no arrests.
This year is different.
City officials came to Ward about three weeks ago (not quite the 45 days the Times recommended, but close enough) and told him they wanted to make the ride safer by closing all the streets along the route by 5:30 a.m.
In years past, the best the cyclists could get was a "rolling street closure" in which streets were closed in sections as the cyclists proceeded toward the sea.
The mayor's spokeswoman, Vicki Curry, was quick to point out that the city is still not condoning the 26-mile-long bike ride, saying in an email: "This activity is not sanctioned by the city. It is our understanding that people are interested in riding along the route in advance of the marathon. City departments will monitor the situation to ensure public safety."
Ward says the mayor's staff has been helpful, and gave tacit approval to the language on the event's Facebook page, where more than 1,500 people have said they'll be attending.
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Of course, there's still no race, just a ride. At least not this year. Ward hopes to bring back the race next year—with the help of the city.
Those wanting to take part in the ride should meet at the now-closed Tang's Donut (aka Wu Tang's Donut) on Fountain Avenue and Sunset Boulevard between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 15, when the ride officially begins. It should take most cyclists about one hour and 15 minutes to complete the course.