Bicycle vs airplane race!

During this weekend’s I-405 closure in Los Angeles, a group of bicyclists will race a JetBlue Airlines flight the 40 miles from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank to Long Beach Airport. Who will win?

As part of the huge I-405 lane widening and HOV project in Los Angeles, Caltrans will close a 10 mile stretch of the nation’s busiest freeway tonight through the weekend, an event locals are calling Carmageddon. Because there are no good surface alternatives to the 405 between the Santa Monica Freeway and Ventura Freeway, JetBlue offered two round trip filghts between Burbank and Long Beach over the weekend for only $4. People quickly snapped up available seats.

Tom Vanderbilt (the How We Drive guy), tweeted that “Given airport travel time, security, runway delay, etc., I’d bet a good cyclist could travel BUR to LGB faster than Jet Blue.”

Riders with the Wolfpack Hustle and other Los Angeles cyclists began joking about a race between bikes and JetBlue. Los Angeles bike advocate Joe Anthony contacted JetBlue, and before long this joke became a bona fide commuter challenge: Can a strong cyclist beat a commercial airline flight across Los Angeles?

The JetBlue flight departs Burbank at 12:20 PM on Saturday, with scheduled arrival at 1:05 PM. The cyclists will depart Burbank at 11:05 AM, accounting for passenger arrival time at the terminal. They’ll cycle like mad men and women to Long Beach Airport entrance. The flyers will walk (or run!) from the arrival terminal to the airport entrance to meet the cyclists. First to arrive at the airport entrance wins.

It’s about 40 miles between the two airports. With traffic lights and stop signs, a strong cyclist can travel that distance in about 2 hours 30 minutes, maybe a little less, so this should be interesting to watch. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, the cyclist won in a commuter challenge against a helicopter, though in that case the distance was only 3 km. (Who flies a helicopter to travel 3 km?!)

To follow the race and updates, check Twitter hashtag #flightvsbike. Joe (aka ohaijoe), who will be one of the flyers this weekend, chronicles how the whole thing got set up here.


  1. Sao Paulo is notorious for its unending traffic jams, so if you have the means you travel by helicopter even for short distances like 3km. 

  2. Awesome. Go Bikes! And if closing 10 miles of freeway for 2 days affects your life so much, you should rethink calling it a life.

  3. I’m betting on the cyclists–even though this race is rigged in favor of the airplane.

    The better race would be door-to-door.

    Drive to the airport from a predetermined residence
    Arrive early, per the recommendations of the airport.
    Check in
    Go through Security
    Take off
    Exit terminal
    Walk, taxi, bus, etc. to predetermined destination in Long Beach

    Leave the same residence on a bike
    Arrive at the same destination by bike.

  4. Mark my words. The closure will be like the Olympics and traffic will be lighter than average!

  5. The irony with the whole JetBlue promo is that the most direct way between Long Beach and Burbank doesn’t use the 405, much less the stretch being closed.

    BTW, I agree with Ted.  They really should start and end the challenge at a location other than the airport.

  6. You’re right: Door to door, bicycles would win hands down. I think the
    Wolfpack Hustle people decided to make it a little more challenging with the
    airport-to-airport route.

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