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July 17, 2011

Tour de Carmageddon: JetBlue vs the WolfPack

The news brings reports of a big cycling event focusing on the optimized intergration of the human form, technology, and the sporting spirit. I'm referring, of course, to the Tour de Carmageddon.

A Los Angeles highway called the 405 is closed for construction. Project managers hope that paying to rebuild a bridge will stimulate the economy by forcing millions to seek alternative transportation routes. Local governments have apprehensively been preparing the population for "Carmageddon".

JetBlue airlines saw a marketing opportunity and advertised flights from Burbank to Long Beach, a route encumbered by the 405 closure, for $4 a seat. It's not a moneymaker but JetBlue got a lot of media coverage out of it. The JetBlue marketing folks were quite clever in seeing an opportunity in somebody else's difficulty.

Local bicyclists, who saw the 405 closure as an opportunity for bicycle advocacy, proposed a challenge: they claimed to be able to make the 38-mile Burbank to Long Beach connection faster than the jet.

The challenge is arranged so that when blogger Joe Anthony leaves his home to arrive at the Burbank airport one hour prior to departure, the team of five local bicyclists called The Wolfpack will depart the same neighborhood.

The destination is the Long Beach Aquarium, and whoever gets there first wins. The bicyclists are constrained to honor all stop signs and red lights.

What I like about the structure is that it adds the pre-flight and post-flight time logistics to the flight time, and the relatively short distance makes it competitive; there wouldn't be any comparison if the route was LAX to JFK.

The bicycle riders won, arriving at the Aquarium one hour and one minute (1+01) before the JetBlue passengers. The 1+01 time is exaggerated somewhat by the fact that the cabdriver got lost on the way to the Aquarium, but the victory is confirmed by the fact that the bicyclists arrived just as the jet was touching down.

It is interesting how uninvolved parties with completely different agendas seized on the highway closure as an opportunity for activism. I'm sure this is an isolated instance of an otherwise non-existant phenomenon.


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