NPR logo Cycling Activists Take to the L.A. Freeways


Cycling Activists Take to the L.A. Freeways

Produced by NPR's Zena Barakat, with footage from the Crimanimalz.

On the show today, we heard from the Crimanimalz — a group of L.A. bike riders who've begun monthly rides on the interstates around Santa Monica. Their motto: If you rode a bike, you'd be home by now.

The Crimanimalz got their start over the fall, when they decided to create an alternative to the Critical Mass rides in Santa Monica. They tried a few kinds of pedestrian or bike theater, but nothing has caught the attention of the community — and law enforcement — like riding down the freeway. They've now ridden twice, in April with a dozen or so people and again in May with double that.

For the record, the California Highway Patrol says riding a bike on the freeway is dangerous and illegal. It comes with the risk of death and a ticket north of $100.

Bonus: Crimanimalz blog a night ride.



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Ha! That's great! I think this was less of a stunt then it was a political statement... LA is in sore need of public transportation and these guys are illustrating how silly it is to just sit idly in your car in the middle of a deadlocked rush hour.

No doubt this would have been deadly if not done in the height of rush hour but these riders seemed to have planned this out well. Great Story!

Sent by Dan | 8:54 AM | 6-12-2008

I like these guys' message, but weaving through traffic the way they were doing was totally unnecessary.

Freeways have HUGE shoulders -- riding a bike on a freeway shoulder at anytime would be relatively safe. Riding a bike in a 15-foot wide shoulder with other traffic going by at 70 mph is probably safer than riding in a 6-foot wide bike lane with 45 mph motor traffic.

Near where I live (Auburn, CA) there are sections of I-80 where bike riding is permitted because there are no alternative routes.

Sent by Edward Nodlesen | 9:59 AM | 6-12-2008

@Edward Nodlesen "I like these guys' message, but weaving through traffic the way they were doing was totally unnecessary."

One mans civil disobedience is another man's public nuisance. In this case unnecessary is in the eye of the beholder. Weaving in and out of traffic does a much better job of drawing attention to the insanity and inanity of cars than peddling along the shoulder would. There's no way I'd ever do it of course. Way too dangerous. However, I find Crimanimalz's actions commendable. It also looks like a hoot.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 10:19 AM | 6-12-2008

What kind of bikes were they riding? I'd do this with my racing bike, but not with a BMX. I think I saw one or two BMX bikes in the mix.

Looked like fun.

Living in L.A. seems attractive for several reasons (weather, etc.) but traffic and the lack of public transport would drive me crazy.

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 11:06 AM | 6-12-2008

raising awareness is great...riding your bike is great...riding your bike to raise awareness...brilliant...and yet...the self-righteousness and indignation of groups like critical mass in SF have soured many drivers towards cyclists. As a cyclist, I know that many drivers are boneheads, but their sheer size warrants a degreee of respect.

Sent by m.rawlins | 11:34 AM | 6-12-2008

I work in an emergency department and see many kids and adults hit by cars with all kinds of injuries. I would love to bike to work, but fear the drivers. We need to increase driver awareness of cyclists. I'm not convinced daring tactics will accomplish this.

Sent by Jeff | 12:51 PM | 6-12-2008

First Obama and now this!! WOW America, what is happening?? Stunned disbelief from Europe! So much insight and change all at once, I always knew you'd pull through, I believe in the restorative vitality of the idea called USA. GO GO GO

Sent by Daniel | 1:14 PM | 6-12-2008

When arriving initially to the US i though that people riding in cars was their choise, but seeing the transport infrastructure layout people here doesn't have a choice, it's either take the car or don't. back in Europe there is litteraly thousands more bike paths and you nearly always have this choice of good public transportation no matter in how small a comunity you live in.

It sucks thinking "Ahh it would be nice to take the bike to that palce" and looking it up on the map seeing certain death if you where to ride on some narrow roads or heavy trafficeted ones.

I think it's time to give people the choice and freedom of choising their own way of transportation, I though this was the land of the free, so far I havn't seen to much of that.

"You gotta have a car and money in this land of milk and honey"

Sent by Otto Sandstrom | 1:36 PM | 6-12-2008

The CHP are not 100% accurate. Yes, driving a bike on a freeway is dangerous, but there are stretches of freeway where bicycles are allowed to drive: e.g. I-5 between San Clemente and Oceanside through Camp Pendleton. I have rode my bike on that road, and I wish I hadn't. When semis would go by me, I would feel the push of air forcing me into the pickleweed. It wasn't fun.

I know that they're trying to make a point, but, as one who's seen other bikers in California after their head-ons with speeding cars whose drivers "didn't see you," just stay in the bike lane and off the freeway. Whether you're wrong or right, you still lose.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 1:53 PM | 6-12-2008

Cyclist-commuters of the world unite! Together we can display the tenacity, fitness and eco-friendliness necessary to earn our own lanes and, one day, entire streets, neighborhoods and cities! Let our LEDs be beacons and let our ripped calf muscles be our weapons in the two wheel revolution!

Sent by ER in Portland | 2:23 PM | 6-12-2008

bravo to Crimanimalz!

every american city that suffers traffic jam should have a group like this! it's time to have a long-term perspective to incorporate bike lanes when designing highways. all highway departments should set up a committee to oversee and promote bike riding in the city. think creatively! and together we can save our cities, the planet and ourselves!

Sent by popsicle in Seattle | 3:43 PM | 6-12-2008

I have to disagree with Otto. Most Americans live in and around major metropolitan areas. They do have a choice, but most Americans are simply lazy and are way too self-conscious. I live in South Florida (a very car-conscious region) and I bike about 45% of the time. The other times, I use public transport. By abiding by the laws, you can ride safely, and there are things you can do to ensure that a motorist will see you, both at night and in the day time. When I ask most of my colleagues at work why they don't bike commute. "Oh, I'd get killed!" "Oh, I'll get too sweaty." "Oh, it takes too long and it's too much work." And many of them live closer to work than I do.
I'm a strong believer in the tenet that if you don't want to do something, you will find any excuse not to until you're forced to.

Sent by Roger | 6:39 PM | 6-12-2008

Bravo, I ride almost everyday to work in the Phx heat because I refuse to be extorted by EXXON, et al. What a great statement-- I would join them in a minute because I feel that strongly! In rush hour it's not anymore dangerous than trying to cross a street here in automania. SIGN ME UP!!

Sent by Robert Mitchell | 8:54 PM | 6-12-2008

To see Crimanimalz 2nd Freeway Ride video, go here:

Gas Sucks: Ride a Bike.

Sent by RichToTheIE | 10:43 PM | 6-12-2008

I hope the policymakers are paying attention. The age of automobile entitlement must come to an end if metropolitan lifestyles are to subsist. We all need to take transportation choices more seriously. Thanks guys for getting out there and making a show of pedal-power over gas-power.

Sent by Rob | 3:32 AM | 6-13-2008

I have to respectfully disagree with Roger... certainly in the midwest public transportation is not widely available. Where I'm from (Columbus, Ohio) it would actually be a step up to have a complete lack of public transportation. The COTA Bus system has been bankrupting the city for years and is unreliable and ineffective. Unfortunately, city officials have used this system as an excuse not to implement better transportation alternatives.

Is public transportation available in more metropolitan areas? Absolutely.. (Chicago, New York, Wash. DC, Portland come to mind) but with the exception of eastern New England states there is a general lack of commuter railway infrastructure in the US. As Otto said - not so in Europe! The US would do well to look to our European friends for transportation ideas.

Sent by Dan | 10:50 AM | 6-13-2008

This isn't that shocking. In rural states (specifically South Dakota), bicycles are allowed on interstates, presumably on the shoulder.

Sent by Mike | 11:22 AM | 6-13-2008

I hope they're all wearing helmets!

Sent by Celeste in bike-friendly Davis, CA | 4:48 PM | 6-13-2008

Several months ago there was an article about a guy in Austin that was riding the toll roads there.

Sent by kojo | 1:43 AM | 6-14-2008


Sent by Amanda Garces | 1:47 AM | 6-14-2008

NPR cracks me up with its spin toward the freeway riders' antics by negating the cycling community backlash at the first ride and touting that the second ride doubled in supporting participants -- yeah, from 15 to a whopping 30.

Riding a stretch of gridlocked freeway may indeed be safer than some of the clogged surface streets and intersections I'm forced to navigate through when I ride during rush hours, and because of that the shock factor of the stunt wears off pretty quick.

I'll certainly never get on the radio by doing my daily 30-mile roundtrip bike commute across Los Angeles (often times past the NPR HQ on Jefferson Boulevard) but then again I'm not alt-commuting to change the world nor to better the city's woefully lacking bicycling infrasture, and certainly not for the publicity.

Sent by Will Campbell | 12:57 PM | 6-16-2008

"For a cyclist, riding on the interstate is utterly taboo."

Except for those places in rural areas where riding on the shoulder of the interstate is legal.

Sent by Bob | 1:45 PM | 6-16-2008

I rode on the 101 Hollywood Freeway all the way to downtown LA along with Los Angeles bicycle activists during their coordinated freeway protest ride yesterday. The first thing I noticed was the air. It was difficult to breathe. Mind you I was pedaling a bike, fast and furiously. The air on the freeway is toxic and suffocating. Even with your windows rolled up, that poisonous mix of carbon monoxide and deadly particulates seep into your vehicle while you inch along at 5-15 mph during rush hour. For the sake of your health, and those of your loved ones who are in the car with you, isn't it time to find an alternative?

Sent by S.K. Duncan | 5:46 PM | 6-21-2008