'Carmageddon' Puts Bikes Front And Center In L.A.

It's a rare event, and hard to resist for any cyclist or skater - a 10-mile stretch of I-405 in Southern California from Highway 10 to Highway 101 is going to be closed this weekend for 53 hours in order for construction crews to widen the roadway and demolish part of a bridge. The ensuing traffic snarl is being called 'Carmageddon.' It is also an opportunity for Angelenos to see how other methods of transport can serve them, and cyclists and flash mobbers are planning (unsanctioned) rides to take advantage of the wide-open but closed-off roads.

Carmageddon photo montage

Photo Carmageddon Los Angeles Facebook page.

It's a little funny that the sound of the word 'karma' is part of 'carmageddon' as it seems our destinies have definitely been controlled by the car for the last 75 years or so, and nowhere more so than in Los Angeles.

With the hullaballo around this three day closure of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, you would get the idea that the sky is falling and the world will end, all because some people won't be able to, or won't choose to, drive over the weekend.

Some in the media have predicted that the 10-mile freeway closure will cause a sort of perma-grid of traffic congestion similar to that experienced in China some months back. Others predict business as usual - traffic, traffic, and more endless traffic - is more likely.

In any case, it's a sure bet there will be a lot of bike riding around the area.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition will host a guided ride to the local Eat Real Festival. Some connecting Metro bus rides will be free for this time. Valet bike "angels" will allow cyclist to the event to leave their bicycles parked (and attended) for free.

And the Midnight Ridazz will purportedly host a late-night flash mob ride on a portion of the closed road, reports the LA Weekly.

Whether Carmageddon will result in a more bike-friendly L.A. is of course anyone's guess. (One of the most emissions-unfriendly Carmageddon special offers must be JetBlue's advertised 20-minute $4 flight between Long Beach Airport and Burbank, California's Bob Hope Airport. On the other hand, in a somewhat strange irony, JetBue is simultaneously letting cyclists bring bikes this month for free!)

Though only a tiny proportion of people in L.A. commute to work by bicycle (9,000 of the estimated 2.7 million adult workers) the city is starting to give more thought to bike infrastructure, according to the LA Times. A network of "bikeways" -- i.e. painted lanes and sharrows on main streets -- is scheduled to increase from 378 miles to 1,680 miles of roadway. Dedicated bike paths, such as one along the Los Angeles River, are also scheduled to expand.

GOOD Editor Alissa Walker says Carmageddon is actually a good thing and LA should expand on it by having a car-free day each year. She'll get her wish partly granted in 2012 - another Carmageddon will be needed to demolish the other side of the Mulholland Bridge next year.

Read more about bikes and L.A.:
Myth No. 1: No One Rides A Bike In L.A.
Ode to Los Angeles Bike Culture from 30 Seconds to Mars (Video)
Walking The Line Between Good And Bad Transportation

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