Going along for the ride

My-my-my-my Ballona.

Last Friday I decided to embark upon an extreme transportation adventure to cover the final Extreme IDEAS event for UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design School (you can read my recaps of their other events here). The event was held at the school’s new Hercules Campus in Playa Vista, housed in the same airplane hangar where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose. I decided to ride my bike the 14 miles from my house in 90-degree heat, which was not altogether unpleasant, especially once I hit the Ballona Creek Path and its cool ocean breezes.

When I headed home, around 10:30 p.m., I gave myself an option: I’d ride back through Culver City where I could bail out onto the Expo Line if I got tired. But when I pulled out onto Venice Boulevard for what I thought would be a very lonely ride home, I ran into this:

Critical Mass!

Hundreds of cyclists whirred by me, accompanied the chirps of police sirens and punk rock blasting from a bike lit up like a Lite Brite. I thought I had a hunch what was going on but I wanted to make sure. “Is this Critical Mass?” I asked a guy to my left. From behind him someone shouted in response: “It’s CicLAvia!” He was kind of right. LA’s Critical Mass claims to be the country’s largest community bike ride.

My legs were suddenly not tired in the least. I decided I’d join, since at the very least I’d be getting a police escort at least part of the way home (LAPD have been accompanying the ride since 2010, stopping traffic at lights and providing rider support). I followed the group east on Venice, having absolutely no idea where I’d end up.

Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood waiting


I rode with the group up Robertson where we skirted Beverly Hills, turned on Santa Monica Boulevard and rocketed into West Hollywood, then headed north on La Brea and Orange to Hollywood. As we rolled down Hollywood Boulevard it felt like we were some kind of homecoming parade, as the crowds flanking the street came to a halt, and hundreds of tourists and club kids all seemed to snap photos of us with their phones.

Getting LOADED

And it just so happened that a group of my friends were at a bar right there on Hollywood Boulevard. I couldn’t not stop and have a drink, could I? Afterwards I pedaled home in the warm night as a heavy half moon rose over the hills.

Critical Mass is a beautiful way to meet a few hundred fellow cyclists and get your car-free streets fix (since I’d missed the previous week’s CicLAvia, it was a very welcome fix indeed). If you ever want to join—and I know I’m doing it again—the ride meets at the corner of Wilshire and Western on the last Friday of every month at 6:30 p.m. (all details here, or on Facebook).  But there was something else absolutely magical about following a bunch of strangers and just letting myself go with the flow. We just don’t do that enough in our lives.

And as it turned out, the ride delivered me to exactly where I wanted to be.

I hope this long weekend takes you somewhere similarly exciting.

Update: My friend Avishay Artsy has a great story on KCRW today about the Passage ride, another awesome night ride.

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  • Kara Scharwath

    Are you SURE you really wanted to be with those guys? They look pretty weird…

  • Alissa

    Lots of guys for sure but nicest people ever. Also one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen.

  • Alissa

    Oh you mean THOSE guys, at the bar. Yeah, they were weird.

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