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Victory at the Rose Bowl: Car Free Event a Hit with Community

9:34 AM PDT on September 26, 2008

If You Were Traveling with Motororized Power, You Were Pushed to the Outer Loop

It wasn't too long ago that the City of Pasadena was considering banning mass bicycle rides in response to a high rate of crashes in the three mile loop surrounding the Rose Bowl.  Fortunately, the city rejected that idea and instead tried a pilot plan of banning cars on the Bowl's inner traffic loop last evening from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M.  While this is not the first time the inner loop has gone car free, it is the first time it has done so for a public event instead of a charity walk or some other sponsored event.

If only the City of Los Angeles responded to "motorized vs. non-motorized" safety issues.

Turnout for the car-free event was, in the words of City Manager Bernard Melekian, "absolutely fabulous" and I concur.  In the hour I was there in addition to the over one hundred cyclists enjoying their car-free Peloton training, I saw hundreds more people taking a more leisurely bike cruise, skateboarding and rollerblading, or taking a family walk in the well marked pedestrian lane.  On top of that the police and security smiled and waved when you went past, and not just because they could see that my bike is licensed.  If the weather weren't so beautiful, I might not have known I was still in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Last night's event was just a pilot program to see if cars were still able to move around the outer loop without too much congestion, whether people parked in parking lots inside the inner loop moved their cars before 5 P.M. and whether the inner loop users who interacted with the giant Peloton team were able to do so without incident.  Early news reports indicate that the event was a success, but the true measure of whether last night lived up to it's billing will be whether or not the City of Pasadena decides it is worth doing more of in the future.

To read about my experience last evening, read on after the jump.

My plan had been to arrive at about 4 P.M., and drive and bike around the inner loop once to get a feel for what it's like for both the driver and cyclist to brave this mixed travel area.  But, I got lost.  Here's a tip for anyone traveling to the Rose Bowl; make sure you know how to stay on Arroyo Dr. before you leave your house.

Anyway, I did arrive just before the closure actually took place.  It took a couple of minutes after 5:00 before the traffic on the inner loop thinned out, and even then there was still the occasional car as confused drivers who parked in a lot inside the inner loop tried to safely get away.  However, for the most part that first, leisurely first 3.3 miles were pleasant.  I don't know how often I can type that it was great to see so many people walking, biking and enjoying a summer evening on a public street without fear of traffic before you get tired of reading it, but we might find out before this article is over.

There was one odd thing I did notice, even understanding the racing and fitness culture that flocks to the Rose Bowl for training and excercise, I was still surprised that I was the one of two people I saw all evening riding a bike and wearing normal clothing.  With my bike messenger bag, baggy cargo shorts and t-shirt I might as well have been wearing full Ridazz gear for how conspicuous I was.

As I pulled around to start my second loop, I saw a large gathering of cyclists gathered by oneof the entrances.  I pulled in behind eager to hear what was going on.  It turns out it was one of the famous Peloton groups gathering for their car-free ride which consisted of a warm up lap and 10 racing laps.  Before they left the ride leader admonished everyone that, "This is a pilot program!  Be on your best behavior!"

The Peloton, On It's Best Behavior

I managed to stay with them for their warm-up lap, but between I was sucking air as a partial result from not being in training shape and also because I'm still suffering from the head cold that has kept me out of commission for much of the week.  However, it did give me a chance to get passed by the mob, which was important because one of the goals of last evening was to see how the general public interacted with Peloton, and I can report that there were no problems.  It might be a little scary for someone to get passed by a hundred brightly clad people but I was given more than enough berth that I never felt in danger during the mass passing.

After the third lap, I rested on my bike and took a lot of pictures.  Of course, they can be seen at LA Streetsblog's Flickr page.

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