Sure it’s convenient to be able to take your Montague folding bike on a plane, but what if you could get there faster by riding alone?

The Amazing Race

Is riding a bike faster than flying? This past weekend, with I-405 closed for construction for 10 miles between Ventura and Santa Monica, a group of cyclists tried to see if they could ride from Burbank to Long Beach in less time than it would take to get there by plane.

With the freeway closed for construction, traffic congestion was a major concern for city officials and residents (there was talk of a possible “Carmageddon” if all the I-405 traffic was diverted to secondary highways and smaller side streets). People were advised to stay close to home, and to walk, take public transit, and ride their bikes whenever possible. Some airlines also offered cheap flights between local destinations to keep people off the streets – a ticket from Burbank to Long Beach could be had for as little as $4. And while the flight time for the 40 mile trip is only about 20 minutes, some cyclists wanted to see if they could beat the plane from Burbank to Long Beach.

An Incredible Pedal

The cyclists and the airline passenger both left the same Burbank location at 10:50am – the cyclists headed for Long Beach, using bike paths along the Los Angeles river; the passenger headed to the Burbank Airport, to catch his 12:30 flight.

This 40 mile route took only an hour and a half by bike!

In just over an hour and a half, the cyclists arrived in Long Beach at 12:24pm. The plane landed at Long Beach Airport 27 minutes later at 12:51pm. The cyclists arrived almost half an hour before the plane, and, in fact, were in town before the plane had even taken off!

Lesson Learned?

Of course it won’t always be faster to ride a bike than take a plane – it takes about 5 hours to fly non-stop from Seattle to Boston (not even counting the time it takes to check in and wait for baggage), but riding coast-to-coast takes even the fastest, most experienced, cross-country riders about 10 days. But for shorter trips, like to the grocery store, to work, or to the beach, or even to the next town, riding a bike can often take less time than other forms of transportation.

Why is this?

    • When you’re on a bike, you’re on your own schedule – no waiting for the bus and no flight delays.


    • Bikes are really easy to park – you don’t have to look for parking or pay for parking, or worry about feeding the meter. And if you have a folding bike, you don’t even have to worry about locking outside; you can take your bike inside with you.


  • Bike traffic congestion is minimal – no getting stuck in traffic. If you ride the bike path, even if it’s crowded, it’s not bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, the way city or freeway traffic can be. And in many places, it’s legal for bikes to ride to the right of cars or on the shoulder (be sure to check your local traffic laws though!), so you can bypass long lines of cars on your bike.

Faster than a Speeding Bullet?

Have you ever compared your cycling time to the time it takes you to do the same trip by car or public transportation? Were you faster? By how much? What’s your favourite faster-on-the-bike story?

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