Marathon crash: Could a compromise be near?

Photo by Mikey Wally via Flickr Creative Commons

Update 4:59 p.m. Could the Marathon Crash race still take place Sunday?

Organizers Wolfpack Hustle posted on their Facebook page Thursday that they were heading to Los Angeles City Hall hoping to find a resolution:

UPDATE: Heading to City Hall to meet with city officials.... things are brewing. All parties involved want this resolved in the best way possible. Stay tuned...

A message left with Wolfpack Hustle leader Don Ward was not returned Thursday afternoon.

Regardless of what happens with the bike race, the L.A. Marathon steps off early Sunday morning with thousands of runners taking to the streets. 

Related: Weekend Traffic: LA Marathon closing streets 

The Marathon Crash race is made up of a couple thousand cyclists ready to ride along the route of the L.A. Marathon.

Kaz Motegi is one of them. He says he’s been gearing up for a couple of months. Cycling is his world. He works as a bicycle mechanic and salesman at Pasadena Cyclery. He knows just about every race around, and he says this ride is special.

“You feel like you're riding this wave of adrenaline, and it's just amazing,” Motegi said.

Partly, it’s the renegade experience of the pre-dawn darkness of having two-wheelers taking over major roads normally overrun by car traffic.

“Its 2 o'clock in the morning. You’re just waiting for the race to start. You get your number. You’re all ready to go. You see all these other people with spandex or lycra or regular street clothes," Motegi said. "And then they’re all chatting about their strategies and everything. And that feeling of goosebumps.”

Motegi also said the beauty of the ride is in the wide range of participants, from professional to entry-level. But he said it also adds to the danger.

“It’s called Marathon Crash race for a reason," he said. "Because everyone crashes at one point or another."

It has been an underground event for the past five years. This year, the city asked organizers — the biking group Wolfpack Hustle — to obtain a special event permit. They did not submit an application in time, said Jimmy Tokeshi, a spokesman for the city of L.A.'s Public Works Department.

“There was an immediate public safety issue related to Wolfpack Hustle’s Marathon Crash Race unofficial use of the marathon route,” Tokeshi explained.

He said the city's main concern is safety. Previously, the LAPD had been willing to help police the route to keep riders and motorists safe. This year, the department decided it would not help unless the organizers obtained a permit, the spokesman said.

“It’s a large event. The event stretches for more than 26 miles," Tokeshi said. "So unless the city is properly planning to deal with the number of folks out there over that length of space, you know it's difficult to ensure people are going to be safe. And that’s the bottom line."

3:29 p.m.: Marathon crash: LA cites safety for restrictions; cyclists say they'll ride anyway

Los Angeles police are attributing the decision to shut down a popular bike race along the L.A. Marathon route to concern over public safety, but several hopeful participants have said they will defy the city and ride the course anyway.

Wolfpack Hustle, the group behind the "Marathon Crash Race," which has run the same path as the L.A. Marathon for the past several years, announced Wednesday that they would cancel the race under threat from the city of criminal prosecution.

In a cease-and-desist letter (that can be read below) that was sent to the event's organizer and Wolfpack Hustle founder, Don Ward, the city's Bureau of Street Services warned of possible fines and jail time of up to a year if the group did not get the proper permits. In past years, they have managed to get the unofficial cooperation of the city and law enforcement without going through the permitting process. StreetsBlog LA has posted a copy of that letter.

"The bottom line is we are trying to keep people safe," L.A. Police Cmdr. Bill Scott told the Los Angeles Times. "When you have an event with a lot of people and it's not permitted, there is a lot more problems." The Times' report continues:

Even with street closures, bike races can be dangerous. But Scott said in this case, cyclists often hit the streets before the roads are fully closed, sometimes running traffic lights and stop signs, he said.

Because organizers did not obtain a permit, Scott said it is difficult for the LAPD to plan ahead and determine how to deploy officers.

But Ward told LA Weekly:

"I told the city very clearly canceling it is not going to stop people. The big issue now is that there are still going to be thousands of people there even though it's canceled. There are people saying, 'So what if it's canceled, we're going to go anyway.'"

 A post about the cancellation on Wolfpack's Facebook page sparked a mix of reactions, with some voices calling for caution and compliance and others urging defiance.

One commenter wrote, "I was not going to race but, if they want to try & stop us I'm going to ride it anyway."

Another wrote, "We all should write city officials and not do anything to mess things up."

Over at Pasadena Cyclery, the response was "bummer" from bicycle mechanic Kazy Motegi, 18.

He said he has been gearing up for the ride for the last couple of months and expects to ride the route anyway with a group of friends in the pre-dawn hours Sunday. He said it's one of the biggest underground rides in the cycling community.

He understood why safety is a concern, but doesn't know why the city acted to nix it just days before the race.

“It just doesn't make sense,” Motegi said. “They could have decided sooner."

He acknowledged that the name "Marathon Crash" has a double meaning.

In addition to crashing the marathon route, there are also a lot of crashes. He said it comes from the mix of riders, ranging from entry-level to professionals.

Motegi had a spill two years ago when he did the ride. He said people wore their scrapes from the ride like "a badge of honor."

City of LA Notice of Violation to Wolfpack Hustle

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported organizers were at Los Angeles City Hall. KPCC has not been able to confirm that organizers met with City Hall representatives.