Despite city warnings that organizers could be prosecuted if an annual bike ride happens before Sunday morning's L.A. Marathon, many riders plan to go ahead and crash the closed, 26-mile course.
Organizing group Wolfpack Hustle says it was warned by the L.A. city attorney and the city Bureau of Street Services that its annual Marathon Crash Race would not be tolerated this year. It doesn't have a permit.
" I will be CRASHING the CRASH race!!!" wrote one:
Wolfpack founder Don Ward told us:
I told the city very clearly canceling it is not going to stop people. The big issue now is that there are still going to be thousands of people there even though it's canceled. There are people saying, 'So what if it's canceled, we're going to go anyway.'
The city warned Ward that he would be held liable if the Wolfpack event happened. He did his due diligence, announcing the event had been canceled on the group's Facebook page last night. However, we asked if he was worried that the city would go after him if riders still show up.
"I am concerned about that, yeah," he said.
LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman warned, "Whatever the situation deems, if it's an arrest, then that's what will happen. Officers assigned to the marathon will handle it as need be."
We reached out to the city attorney's office and the Bureau of Street Services but had yet to hear back.
This would have been the fifth year of the Crash Race. After the first year, "The LAPD got involved," Ward said, offering tacit tolerance by providing a patrol-car escort through intersections that were not fully closed.
Last week the organization discovered that a well-liked LAPD bicycle-community liaison who helped coordinate the escort would not be participating this year. Then, on Monday, the city attorney's office called Ward.
I got a message saying the event was in violation - a notice of violation - and that I could be held criminally liable if it still happens. I also would be held financially responsible for enforcement to disperse it.
This year the cycling event was sponsored by Red Bull and would have been covered by American Bicycle Racing insurance. The city would be released from liability, Ward said. As many as 4,000 riders showed up last year, and organizers were expecting even more peddlers Sunday.
The event was supposed to start at 4 a.m. and fully wrap up by 6 a.m., giving the marathon plenty of time to get competitors on the course (the first race starts at 6:50 a.m.).
As a last-minute Hail Mary, Ward said he applied for the necessary paperwork - a special-event permit. But it would cost a prohibitive $250,000 or so, he said.
Ward also was awaiting a call from the mayor's office.
Ironically, the city's action will push the event back to its anarchic roots; it was an opportunity for cyclists, in the days prior to the closed-streets event CicLAvia, to enjoy the blacktop without cars.
LAPD has a history of providing escorts rather than trying to arrest hundreds if not thousands of bike riders who form allegedly illicit public gatherings. Monthly Midnight Ridazz events that usually start in Koreatown, for example, get escorts through red lights rather than cops in riot gear, despite some unruly "fixie" cyclists who join the rides in a haze of pot smoke.
The policy of the past seems to have been about harm reduction. Ward says riders started crashing the marathon course in 2007, a few years before Wolfpack got involved.
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"I don't want to criticize the city at all," Ward told us. "They've been great over the years with just looking the other way. In the early times, before it was even a race, people just did it impromptu. That was the joy of it."
[Added at 3:21 p.m.]: Here's a response sent to us by the Bureau of Street Services:
-The sponsor canceled the event after being made aware of City requirements that a permit was required. The event was not canceled by the City.
-Due to public safety concerns, city agencies (City Attorney, Los Angles Police Department, Department of Transportation and Chief Legislative Analyst) advised the BSS of the need to inform the organizer of special-event requirements and penalties for failure to obtain a permit.
-BSS by ordinance has responsibility of such special-event permits beginning of Sept. 2009.
-It was not until this past Monday (March 3), the issue was brought before BSS when LAPD and LADOT notified BSS of an immediate public safety issue related to the Wolfpack Hustle L.A. Marathon Crash Race this Sunday.
-BSS was advised that in previous years, LAPD monitored the cycling group's unofficial use of the marathon route.
-BSS received an email inquiry this morning from the organizer to facilitate a special-event permit, but an application has not been received as of this afternoon.
-Normally, a 45-day window is required to process such a special-event permit.