L.A.’s street culture owned L.A.’s streets this week, judging from the new Sixth Street Viaduct, which has already resembled a rave, a music festival, Mad Max, and a Jackass episode in the space of just one week.
Within days of its grand opening, the Los Angeles Times reports, the $558 million bridge was the site of steady, increasingly jubilant street takeovers by array of vehicular adventurers: stunt skaters, trick bikers, apparent auditioners for Fast & Furious. Plus, for those who prefered to risk death just watching the action—much as in Thunderdome—there were the spectators who scaled its towering arches to get it on TikTok or Instagram.
While public handwringing initially was confined to dumped scooters and rubber skid-marks defacing the pristine concrete, more serious concerns followed Monday night’s takeover, where Instagram-posted video captured the spinning back wheels of a would-be drag racer in a white Dodge Challenger, which abruptly veered into oncoming traffic and parked cars, hitting a pedestrian wall before its driver fled on foot.
Jessica Pugach, 21, was driving one of the cars hit, the impact’s force totaling her Nissan Sentra. “If my car wasn’t stopped, I would’ve flown over the bridge,” she told CBS News. “I don’t even know how I’m alive right now.” Seconds earlier, she’d been an enthusiastic observer of this latest L.A. street takeover.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s my first time on the bridge and there’s gonna be a takeover? Oh my god, that’s so cool,'” she told CBS. “But then no. It wasn’t cool.”
The wild, unruly atmosphere of these events speaks to a rich tradition in L.A.’s byways, where polyglot cultures vie for fame with amped-up, finely calibrated motorist styles—often contrary to what city planners had in mind.
“Cities have their goal, their intentions of what [the 6th Street Viaduct] bridge means to them,” Cal State Northridge professor Denise Sandoval, who studies low-rider culture, told the Times. “But the people will make meaning out of public spaces [and it] doesn’t always align with the city.”
UCLA urban historian Eric Avila described an uneasy sense of deja view in watching images of street takeovers on Sixth Street, which reminded him of Eastside lawlessness decades ago, where the police shutdown long stretches of Whittier Boulevard. “Now, given the scope and the frequency of that activity, why should we be surprised that it’s now on this shiny new bridge?” Avila told the paper. “The dynamic exists in most every modern city, around the world you know, people using these spaces in ways that were not intended by the designers or the sponsors of new spaces.”
Nor is there a strong consensus among its users. The Times reports internecine feuds between low-riders and drag races. Bicyclists and motorists. And pedestrians slowed down by those self-documenting their antics on an instant Instagram hit with its own proud history on the big screen.
The Sixth Street Viaduct, connecting Boyle Heights and the downtown Arts District, replaces the previous bridge built in 1932, seen in countless TV shows and films, including Grease and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
“This is the first bridge built in the Instagram era in L.A.,” Eastside Councilman Kevin De Leon told the Times. “And as we’ve seen, people will do anything in the pursuit of virality.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.