INTERVIEW: Lucas Brunelle - street racer, film maker
Lucas Brunelle is the man behind a wave of alleycat race films which have hit the internet in recent years. What’s an alleycat? Well, it’s about ankle high, with four legs, and it likes fish and dustbins.
Kidding. An alleycat is an unofficial bike race, organised by bike couriers or messengers. The races normally run through cities, with checkpoints along the way but no set route. Solid traffic, pavements, red lights, and even stairs are all fair game, which makes the races unpopular with police, motorists or pedestrians – and normally illegal.
They are risky, adrenaline-fuelled affairs, and require a serious level of expertise.
Lucas, who hails from Boston where he runs his own computer consultancy, has been filming and competing in alleycat races for ten years. The 35-year-old has just arrived in London where he’ll take part in a couple of night races before cycling to Dublin, Ireland, in time for the annual alleycat world championships. BikeRadar spoke to him about his need for speed.
BikeRadar: How did you end up taking part in alleycat races?
Lucas: Since I was a kid I’ve always loved racing and extreme things with bikes. I raced pro-am for years, doing these very fast road races and they weren’t exciting enough. So I ended up doing races with furniture [on the bikes] and off-road.
BR: So alleycat races were the next step. Tell us about the footage on your website of a race in London.
L: That was an alleycat race with six check points.
BR: At the end of that film a pedestrian hit by another cyclist swears at the racers. Have you been in similar situations, or been arrested?
L: I have been booked by police, police have shut check points down, but I have never actually gotten into trouble with the police for one of them.
BR: What’s your response to people who say the races are dangerous and should be stopped?
L: They are underground, they are illegal, they are something like the Gumball rally, but with bikes! The police know about it, they do try to shut it down, but they can’t react in time because we are so quick.
BR: How do you mount your cameras to make sure you capture as much footage as possible?
L: Well, I’m taking six cameras on this trip, and four of them are film cameras. I’ve got cameras attached to the bike and helmet cameras, covering just about every angle. It’s all from my point of view.
BR: Watching one of your films it’s clear that even just surviving one of these races requires serious skill.
L: I’ve friends of mine who have been cycling and city riding for a long period of time and are fast riders, but then in an alleycat get into a situation where they are in over their head. To do well in an alleycat takes a whole lot of skill. They are taking their chances. It’s something that’s on the edge and it’s very fast and it’s unpredictable, and there are numerous risks that one encounters during these races.
BR: On your site you’ve even got footage of you cycling into what looks like a riot. Tell us about that.
L: That’s one of the most dangerous things [I’ve done]. The Boston Red Sox [baseball team] won the World Series. Everybody was celebrating, and flipping cars and setting things on fire and blowing things up. It was like being in war zone. Another time we raced along FDR Drive in New York, which is a very fast highway. That was risky.
BR: You’re in London now. What are your plans while in Europe?
L: There are some events this weekend. A couple of alleycats, one on Friday night (July 27) and another one on the Saturday (July 28).
BR: And then you’re cycling from London to Dublin…
L: It’s such a once in a lifetime experience, to do a ride across London and the coast to Dublin. I’ve never done anything like that. All my riding has been in cities.
Lucas plans to arrive in Dublin in time for the 15th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, which take place from August 3 to 7. Unlike the usual alleycat races, all the events will be official, and legal, with the main routes at Phoenix Park, outside the city centre. There will also be a series of side events, which are expected to include police-sanctioned rides through shut down parts of the city.
To find out more about the world championships visit the official website.
To watch Lucas’ films and find out more about his adventures go here.
© BikeRadar 2007