Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Alex Cohen & A Martínez

The Great Race: The cyclist beat both car and bus - here's why

by Jacob Margolis and Leo Duran | Take Two

The Great Race: Is the car still king in LA?
The Great Race: Is the car still king in LA? KPCC (via Vimeo)

We sent out three staffers in rush hour traffic. The mission: To race from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica Pier via bike, bus and car. The winner: The bicyclist. 

Jacob Margolis biked there in 65 minutes, while Sue Carpenter drove and parked in the span of 70 minutes. Leo Duran spent 94 minutes using public transportation. 

The car may be king in Southern California, but there are plenty of challenges to getting around. As we found out, driving can actually slow you down.

Here's an overview of what went down.

The route

Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. 

Map GIF

The racers

The time

Morning rush hour, starting at 8:30 a.m. sharp.

The rules

Use whatever tools and technology you have at your disposal. The final route you take is up to your discretion.

Dispatches from the racers

Sue Carpenter by car

Sue was driving what's technically a motorcycle: a Polaris Slingshot.

She drove out of Union Station with her helmet on and disregarded Waze's suggestions to take side streets. Instead, she made a beeline for the 10 freeway.

"My thought about Waze is if you're on the freeway and it's even moving at all — unless it's completely jammed stopped — it's better to be on the freeway," she says. "There's no really good shortcut around that."

She may also have had it the easiest because she just needed to drive, but then Sue also knew that she'd run into hurdles in Santa Monica. 

"Does parking factor in? Yes it does, because actually I had to park mine."

Plus, her really cool car inadvertently slowed her down.

"I was driving this crazy vehicle and some guy wanted to stop and talk with me about it!"

Jacob Margolis on bike

Jacob wore spandex (he races regularly on the weekends) and hopped aboard his Ritte Bosberg, a serious racing bike.

But the roads didn't let him go as fast as he'd like along the entire route.

"Trying to get out of downtown was really hard from Union Station to Venice Boulevard, which I took all the way down," says Jacob. "The bike lane was really good in downtown, and then it got really bad when I was transitioning from downtown to Venice Boulevard."

He says some of the lanes didn't connect with each other, if they existed at all. He got a little lost at times in downtown. At other points, cars were parked in the bike lane or potholes threatened to knock him off balance. 

Jacob says he made a point to stop at all stoplights and signs, but he still pushed hard to win. 

"The entire time, I was completely out of breath," he says. "I actually did strain my quad."

Leo Duran on mass transit

Leo used his phone to check Google Maps, which told him the fastest route would be taking the R10 route on the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

That bus picked him up directly across the street from Union Station.

Apps also told him how many minutes away it was.

"In fact, that's why I said, 'We should start at 8:30!' I was checking my app and seeing that the bus would pick up at 8:36 a.m.," he says. "There are many different ways that technology was helping me to not so wait long at a bus stop or a train stop."

The bus's last stop dropped off in downtown Santa Monica at the corner of Broadway and 2nd street, just blocks away from the foot of the pier. After that, it was footrace to the finish.

Why the bike won

Cyclist Jacob Margolis narrowly beat out car driver Sue Carpenter by 5 minutes.

"I would not have pushed as hard if this was a daily commute, if I had been carrying more gear than just recording equipment, if it was hot outside," he says. "I think Sue would have won if everything hadn't fallen into place."

Jacob clocked in at 65 minutes and Sue reached the finish line in 70 minutes.

Leo Duran lagged behind after spending 94 minutes en route.

"I was surprised [Leo] made it here that fast, actually," says Sue.

"It was pretty calm and casual for me," says Leo. "I was mostly posting to Facebook, Instagramming and answering some emails."

What could have made Leo's trip better? He has more details and tips for riding public trans here.

Jacob Margolis had such a tremendous lead on his bike that he was able to drink a cup of coffee after winning, before either of his competitors showed up.

"If it weren't for traffic, I think Sue would have won," he says.

Here's Jacob's route, including the time he spent en route pedaling (minus the time he was stopped at lights). 

Correction: Earlier we said that Jacob had stopped to get coffee during the race. While it is true that he was able to enjoy a nice, rich cup of joe, he actually did so after he had won and before Sue arrived at the pier.

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