Unsanctioned Fiesta Cruiser Run Draws Hundreds of Cyclists

Santa Barbara County Public Health’s Pleas to Not Participate in Annual Bike Ride Fall on Deaf Ears

Bike riders cruise down State Street during the annual Fiesta Cruiser Run. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Despite last-second efforts by county public health officials to cancel this year’s annual Fiesta Cruiser Run in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several hundred bike riders still made the bipedal celebratory trek on August 9 from the base of Stearns Wharf to Goleta Beach and Isla Vista. This was the 40th year the Sunday ride has taken place as a gonzo-spirited, unsanctioned punctuation mark to Santa Barbara’s more established Fiesta revelry. 

Police estimated the ridership at 200; event organizer Rex Stephens — who has now participated in 30 Cruiser Runs — said he counted 500 riders at Goleta Beach. This year’s ride was significantly smaller than last year’s, however, which weighed in at 2,500 riders. 

Police maintained a low-key watchful presence throughout, neither escorting the riders nor issuing any citations this year. The ride precipitated only one call for service. 

Stephens said he devised an alternate route in lieu of the traditional one up State Street, taken in years prior, to avoid potential conflicts at the 500 block of State Street. That block is now blocked off to all bikes and skateboarders because of complaints leveled against some riders who’ve used it to launch extended wheelies. Stephens expressed pride that none of the riders went up State Street; had it gone otherwise, he worried, the entire State Street promenade might have been shut down to all cyclists. 

Stephens said he unsuccessfully sought to enlist help from public authorities to shut down the event. He stated that social-distancing guidelines were not always observed by those on the ride — especially during breaks at Goleta Beach — where he estimated only half the participants wore masks. Some of the more aggressive and flamboyant wheelie-poppers, he acknowledged, rode into oncoming traffic on Chapala Street, though without incident. 


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