In a move that was more marketing stunt than anything else, JetBlue offered four-dollar, twenty-minute plane rides from one side of L.A. to the other last weekend, traversing the thirty-mile stretch between Burbank and Long Beach. The offer was in response to the construction-related closure of L.A.'s I-405, the main freeway in a town that loves its freeways. In response to that response, Slate columnist Tom Vanderbilt posted a challenge on Twitter, saying that a decent cyclist could complete the trip on bicycle quicker than a plane. He was right.
A group of bicycle enthusiasts calling themselves Wolfpack Hustle accepted the challenge. The cyclists were given an hour head start, to account for the time it takes to get to the airport, through security, and on a plane, but they would have won without it. They arrived an hour and twenty minutes before the aircraft, which had experienced significant delays and not yet made it into the air when the bikers made it to Long Beach.
The plane was also beat by a group of people on a walk-and-take-the-metro route, and by a girl wearing rollerblades. The whole "Carmegaddon" freak-out, which had L.A. residents stocking up on dried goods and envisioning a total shut-down, passed more or less without incident. But hopefully a few people will reflect on the panic caused by a "car-less" weekend, and the proof, once again, that bike and public transport are really efficient ways to get around.